“Schools are no good …”

… says Choke from Ethopia. He is one of 43.000 Hamer living in southwestern Ethopia. They are a tribe with unique rituals such as a cattle-leaping ceremony that men go through in order to reach adulthood, whereupon young Hamer women get whipped to prove their love for their kinsmen. Most of the Hamer make their living as successful cattle herders and farmers.

Choke’s grandchildren are the first generation in their family who have the opportunity to go to school and he himself – being part of the council of the eldest – says clearly that school is no good. This really made me think.

School as we understand and practice is – starting out with learning how to read and write – doesn’t make any sense for him. Knowing how to read and write doesn’t give the child anything in his/hers hand. It neither helps him/her to get feeded nor does it help to find a job in the city since the schools aren’t really providing qualitative education. So the kids who go to school most likely end up in a situation in which they no longer belong to their tribe – because the skills they learn aren’t helpful for the community – and they aren’t qualified enough to make a living elsewhere. Being asked what kids should learn at school Choke answered: how to deal with goats and cattle, learn how to repair a bike and to cultivate land … very, very practical things which do make sense in this specific environment.

I think this is a common understanding among many people living in rural areas in the world: school doesn’t provide the right benefits for the community. Since we can’t “adjust” easily the people we should rethink and adjust the schools we provide. I am not saying that reading and writing aren’t helpful, but I truly believe that very practical skills needed in such communities should be taught at school. The kids should learn how to solve local problems and how to survive better in their environment. And this is an important part of our thinking at we_school.

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