Learning through participation: towards defining adult learning in an African rural village context

Learning through participation: towards defining adult learning in an African rural village context Abstract This article analyses the studies of adult learning in Africa, where they exist, often draw uncritically on Western theoretical and methodological frameworks such as andragogy, experiential learning, and transformative learning. These frameworks are informed by individualistic conceptions of learners and learning, shaped by industrial and postindustrial political economy, liberal democratic politics and consumerist culture. Such structures are then imposed on African ‘territories’ of learning, much like a colonial template for carving up the continent, for and under Western eyes. This article, based on a study conducted in a rural village in South Africa, challenges the appropriateness of these frameworks. It adopts an Afrocentric research paradigm which understands research as a collective and collaborative humanizing project which is contextually sensitive and culturally informed. The article presents four community learning places, defines the nature of learning in each place, and concludes that learning in the village is still informed by values of interdependence, interconnectedness, and spiritual values. Introduction While attempts to define adult learning from an African perspective have been made they remain limited and do not seem to translate into programming or curriculum design. This is particularly so because innovation and creativity are stifled by the dominant hegemonic theorization of adult learning that indirectly channels learning and influences how learning is understood and defined. This is based on the false view that knowledge can be/is free of its epistemic origins and therefore generalizable. Studies of adult learning in Africa, where they exist, often draw uncritically on Western theoretical and methodological frameworks such as andragogy, experiential learning and transformative learning. These frameworks are informed by individualistic conceptions of learners and learning, shaped by industrial and postindustrial political economy, liberal democratic politics and consumerist culture. Such structures are then imposed on African ’territories’ of learning, much like a colonial template for carving up the continent, for and under Western eyes. The need to define adult learning from an African perspective is informed by the view that current dominant definitions often reflect values and perceptions about Africa and the African context that are not African. There seems to be a lack of boldness, innovation and creativity in defining that which we as Africans know to that which others believe it to be. Hence, in African contexts, there is too often a disjuncture between community development interventions that aim to promote independence and self-reliance and the reality of community experiences and responses to these external interventions. There is a need to build more organically on community-based knowledge and learning, so that community development interventions authentically integrate the practices of the community or learners in context. Sentence takeout as per suggestion. This article argues that presenting adult learning within the continent simply as socialization, limits our understanding of experiential learning and stifles development. Based on a qualitative, empirical study conducted in a rural village in South Africa using an Afrocentric participatory research design, this article argues that adult learning within the continent is as nuanced and complex as any other form of learning and requires further exploration, particularly on issues of axiology, epistemology and ontology. Importantly, this study found that indigenous processes of learning are threatened both by the villagers themselves and outside forces. The research site – Ebunzimeni village – falls under the Kudele Traditional council (KTC) (not real names) in the province of KwaZulu-Natal and is a typical underdeveloped rural village at the geographical margins of South Africa. Located on the border of two countries (Swaziland and Mozambique) has had major implications for this village, historically an entry and exit point for political insurgents during Apartheid’s regional wars. The need for tighter border control here is imperative, but the creation of wildlife parks to improve border control in the area has encroached on village land and severely impacted people’s livelihoods. For example, ancestral land has been proclaimed a community conservation area (CCA), resulting in forced removals and the fencing off of their natural resources. This CCA is moreover run by a conservation non-governmental organization (NGO) which, for significant reasons, the community rejects. It is against this backdrop that the researcher and the KTC collaborated with a view to raise consciousness and explore alternatives to the status quo. I have worked as a nature conservation researcher for some years, particularly focusing on the settlement of land claims affecting local communities who, like Ebunzimeni, were forcibly removed from their ancestral land. This article highlights the significant contribution made by the theorization of adult learning but argues that African ontologies and epistemologies have been neglected; it argues for a hybrid approach to theorizing learning and asks how we can make adult learning epistemologically and ontologically authentic in the African context. Dominant approaches in the theorization of adult learning Thus far two approaches to theorizing adult learning have emerged from the continent; the first being the testing of foreign theories in Africa and the second, theorization from within Africa and the diaspora with an Afrocentric focus. I argue that the testing of learning theories approach, left unchallenged, contributes to cognitive and cultural injustice. The testing of foreign adult learning theories I argue reflects two dominant orientations – inclusive and exclusive. The exclusive orientation uses a ‘template’ approach that seeks conformity. There are many examples of this approach I focus here on Community/ies of Practice (CoP). CoP is presented as a predominantly collective process – people share common concerns and interests and they meet regularly to deepen their understanding and improve their practice (Wenger, 1999). Learning in the CoP relies on partnerships, structures and processes external to the individual context (Merriam and Caffarella, 1999). Learning entails movement from the periphery to the centre. In an article titled Community development research: merging (or submerging) communities of practice? A response to Van Vlaenderen, John (2004) argues for the correct understanding of the concepts and appropriate application of CoP theory. In an empirical application of the CoP approach in South Africa, Islam (2012) found that the broader implications beyond the CoP context also apply. For Islam race, culture and class are some of the factors that determine movement (or lack of movement) from the periphery to the centre. A majority of CoP studies conducted in SA among teachers, academics, and other professions (see Leshem, 2007; Cuddapah and Clayton, 2011; Cowan, 2012 among others) consistently reveal class as the most significant factor of influence. The inclusive orientation on the other hand is culturally relevant and sensitive to context, as demonstrated in the work on transformative learning theory in this journal by Merriam and Ntseane (2008), Ntseane (2011) and Cox and John (2015). Similarly, the view of learning as a process of conscientisation is dominant on the continent – as reflected in the work and views of Paulo Freire, Robert Chambers, Popular Education in South Africa. The seminal review of Mezirow’s ‘An update of transformative learning theory: a critical review of the empirical research’ (1999–2005) by Taylor (2008), signalled its inclusive orientation by presenting a critique of theory while creating opportunities for other studies to be conducted in different sociocultural contexts for the benefit and relevance of the theory. This prompted Ntseane (2011, p. 308) to ask: How can we make transformational learning culturally sensitive? However, while an inclusive orientation is characterized by clear intentions to be contextually and culturally relevant it does not draw on African epistemology or ontology. For example, Merriam and Ntseane (2008) concluded in their study of Bastwana people in Southern Africa that cultural context has a role to play in the process of transformative learning but that in that context, transformative did not equate to autonomy. Similarly, Cox and John (2015) concluded that in an abnormal context like South Africa, where African people’s lives were continuously disrupted by apartheid and the consequences thereof, structural violence (such as poverty disruption) is normalized rather than catalytic. They conclude that transformative learning does take place but suggest that traumatic experiences might not be the only triggers to transformative learning. Similarly, so-called Freirean-based approaches such as learning as a process of conscientisation (Freire, 1975), popular education (Von Kotze and Walters (2017), participatory learning action (PLA) (Chambers, 1994), self-reliant participatory learning (Williams, 2004), and learning from or within social movements (Hall et al., 2012), seek to make connections between knowledge, power, and culture to effect change (Williams, 2004), or, put differently, seek to produce the critical thought which leads to critical action (Ledwith, 2007). Again, while these approaches provide an alternative theoretical slant as well space for creativity in the theorization and facilitation of learning, the reality is that the lives of most African people to whom these methodologies are applied through interventions remain to the large extent unchanged or in some instance worse (Hlela and Land, 2006; Human Rights Watch, 2017). This suggests a disjuncture between the intention of learning and assumptions about the processes of learning. The second approach to theory generation – Afrocentric alignment – is located either in Africa or the diaspora. Afrocentrism is the discourse of scholars advocating African scholarship and African renaissance. Great strides have been made to define or make a case for African adult learning or ways of knowing. Authors such as Dei (2002), Tedla (1995), and Zulu (2006) argue for the resuscitation of an African epistemology, education and knowledge that predated Christian and Muslim invasions. Failure to recognize or value African epistemology and ontology in curricula alienates the African learner (Dei, 2002), or compromises centricity, which is the learner’s ability to culturally or otherwise connect with content (Asante, 1989). Cognitive and cultural injustice takes place when African ways of knowing are misunderstood, misinterpreted, ridiculed, or ignored in the colonial discourse (Asante, 1987; Dei, 2002; Ngara, 2007). Few empirical studies have been conducted on adult learning from an Afrocentric position. In Senegal a study with rural farmers concluded there was little evidence that the application of Western adult learning theories were useful in this context. I previously articulated the complexities of indigenous learning processes that go beyond the socialization stereotype in the context of a rural South African village. I conclude that learning is facilitated at intrapersonal, interpersonal and contextual spaces, where the roles of the teacher and learner and the places of learning are seldom defined, and where learning is often an unconscious process of participation in different life activities (Hlela, 2017). Other studies have contributed to the characterization of African indigenous learning (AIL) as spiritual; embracing the metaphysical world, community responsibilities and relationships, and gender roles as critical factors in meaning making. AIL is often holistic, embedded, unconscious, and embraces lifelong learning and informal learning (Ngara, 2007; Merriam and Ntseane, 2008; Marriam and Kim, 2008; Odora Hoppers, 2009; Lekoko and Modise, 2011; Hlela, 2017). These studies frequently concur that learning is participatory and social; reflected in phrases such as ‘sitting next to Nellie’ (Lekoko and Modise, 2011), ‘the learning taken for granted’ (Odora Hoppers, 2009) or ‘we are born like that’ (Hlela, 2017). How this learning happens still needs to be explored. Afrocentric research methodology This methodology adopts an Afrocentric Participatory Research Design (APRD) approach which draws on Asante’s (1987, 1990) Ma’at and Nommo, that is, a quest for social justice and harmony (Ma’at), based on African ways of meaning-making and generation of knowledge (Nommo). The methodology specifically embraces two distinct frameworks. First, Mazama’s (2002) seven characteristics of African research: (i) the African experience must guide and inform all inquiry; (ii) the spirituality is important and must be given its due; (iii) immersion in the subject is necessary; (iv) holism is a must; (v) intuition is a valid source of information; (vi) not everything that matters is measurable; and (vii) any knowledge generated must be liberating (Mazama, 2002, p. 27). Second, Hlela’s (2016)ujamma catalytic validity wheel of action, which is an interplay of dialogue, process, and democratic and product validity that creates a space for humanization through research and adherence to required standards of research. APRD understands research as a collective, collaborative, humanizing learning place which is contextually sensitive and culturally informed. The purpose of the research process was to give the community an opportunity to reflect on as many existing community learning places as possible and to make comparisons between these places on the basis of whether, in their view, they were humanizing or dehumanizing. In other words, participants participated in a consciousness raising project to explore alternatives to the status quo. The research process was to create opportunities for knowledge transfer by comparing different places. Participation for the locals and the research team was a journey of community self-reflection through a research design that facilitated learning amongst and between community members. Indigenous institutions were duly approached and permission to implement the study was granted. The process started by negotiating the purpose and ethical issues. This was followed by a three-day PLA community workshop involving the entire village. Six months of photo voice and a weeklong community-based and participatory data analysis process followed. PLA and photo voice are fast and effective Freirean-based approaches for getting relevant information from the local community, and helping them to understand their situation to come up with concrete plans for dealing with their situation (Chambers, 1994; Mascarenhas, 1991). Both are a means of bringing in and giving voice to minorities (Wang and Redwood-Jones, 2001). The workshop ended with the community purposively selecting a group of six members called the reflective focused group (RFG). This group received training in the research design and the ethics of photo voice and photography. The RFG collected and analysed photographs of what they understood to be participation in the village over a period of six months and through different seasons. This was followed by a community-based data analysis process. The community-based analysis was conducted in a workshop where each member of the RFG presented their narrative, through photographs, respectively, to the researcher, to the rest of the RFG and to the villagers. Each member of the RFG presented twenty photographs of what they understood to be participation in village life. Ebunzimeni is a small village with about 100 households and duplication of photographs was deemed inevitable and indeed helpful for categorization and thematization of different forms of participation and participation places. In this stage each member’s interpretation was challenged and/or supported by fellow members of the RFG who were familiar with that place of participation. Findings and discussions: place, participation, and space Places of participation in the village The study is based on the assumption that participation is learning, drawing evidence from theories such as social learning by Bandura (1986), situated cognition theory (Maynard, 2001), communities of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991), and dialogic space (Rule, 2004). In AIL, learning is participation in the practice of ubuntu (African humanism). It is through participation that one becomes human (umuntu), which reflects the values of collectivism, interconnectedness of things and spirituality (Lekoko and Modise, 2011; Preece, 2009). Learning therefore is not always a conscious or product-oriented process. It is these assumptions that inform the description of participation in these places. Out of all the photographs presented four main categories emerged: (i) cultural activities (cleansing of the yard cultural ceremony), (ii) homestead activities (water collection), (iii) community-initiated projects (school building project), and (iv) externally initiated projects (Community Conservation project). Each of these places of participation presented different but also overlapping types of participation dictated to and informed by different dynamics; for example, gender roles, value systems, and culture, to name a few. The nature of learning in different learning places In this section I briefly describe the four places of participation and the nature of learning in each place. Ukuhlanza amagceke is a cultural ceremony; the words mean literally: ‘cleansing the yard by the one who dirtied it’ and is a public and communal acknowledgement of the breach of morality when a woman falls pregnant out of wedlock. This act goes against the ‘script’ of communal values. The man who has impregnated must ‘cleanse the yard’ by handing over a cow and goat as a symbol of remorse and taking responsibility. This is reflected in comments below: It is about shaming the bad deed at the same time celebrate and acknowledge new life. (Headman) Again, the same sentiments about learning are implicitly expressed by a female member of the RFG: Young people do not listen anymore but this reminds them of what is wrong and right. (Thoko) The purpose of the cultural practice is reflected in Headman’s comment which suggest a dual purpose for the practice – to punish (morale generation) and to celebrate new life (spirituality). It publicly shames the undesired behaviour but celebrates the life to come. On the other hand Thembi’s comment suggest the young one’s as target learners. Participation in the ceremony is voluntary, submerged and embedded in the daily activities of the village such slaughtering of the beast, cooking, and other activities. Because of its value as a place of non-formal learning all villagers, young and old, are expected to participate. The older and wiser become teachers who dictate how learning takes place in these subplaces. Importantly, at a community level, it is about individuals coming together for the collective good, and Thoko’s words suggest that participation in this place is designed to be a learning place for all involved – not just the pregnant woman or man who has impregnated her. The ceremony become a place where collective values are explicitly practiced and implicitly passed on. The main characteristic of learning in all subplaces is embeddedness in different activities: it is hands on, practical, common practice, embedded, repetitive, value laden. The ceremony as a non-formal, educational event, presents different types of learning opportunity such as socialization, incidental learning and self-directed learning. Most importantly, the learning and teaching is a spiritual exercise; it is a celebration of the connection between the unborn to the dead (ancestors) and the living. Learning therefore does not always have to be a conscious well-structured process of meaning making. The function of the ceremony in the village is the intergenerational and intragenerational passing and maintenance of critical values – the passing on of skills, knowledge and attitudes – and is an educational event in which every member of the village is expected to participate. Participation in the ceremony by community member become a place of learning the communal values, the same place also creates subplaces for other forms of learnings for different participants. In the household activity category, collecting water is a very important activity, particularly for women. As indicated, there is no running water in the village, making the waterhole a critical place for those who participate in collecting water. Indeed, human beings need water for different purposes in order to survive. In the dry season, it can take one person over 30 min to fill up a 25-l container. Waterholes are a distance from the households, so women walk in groups with 25-l containers balanced on their heads. The study found that the waterhole was a critical place which has a far more important function for participants than gendered act of water collection. The waterhole become a place for learning and teaching amongst women. I asked a group of women at the waterhole what they talk about: There is nothing else we do, think or talk about but our children. We look at the time when it is 12 o’clock and we have not cooked for the children and we think what they will eat. We know it’s time to go. (MaSiba) We talk about everything. (MaCele) The response by the two women suggests close-knit relationships amongst members that I as an outsider cannot enter. The responses were intended to shut me off, possibly because I am a man. However, MaZulu’s response after my hanging around for a long time gives a sense of the significance of these meetings: It’s not easy sometimes – you need someone to talk too. I do not come from this village. I came here to be married and I had to get to know other women as I only live with my in-laws and my husband is away. The group helps me to go back home and be a better ‘bride’ to the household. (MaZulu) Besides ‘problem-based’ learning suggested above, indicates intentionality, consciousness and willingness to participate or learn, suggesting that the waterhole is a place of self-directed and context-based learning. Importantly, it is a place where women connect with each other. The third category was a community-initiated project – in this instance a community-built, community-managed and community-funded three-classroom high school. This is a post-1994 project, which the SA democratic government should provide. High-school-going children in the village had to walk 10 km to the closest high school or pay for transport. Alternatively, their parents would have to rent a place for the child in the village where the high school was located. The last two options were very expensive and consequently most children only completed primary education. Participation in the high-school building project was ‘voluntary’; at the same time, non-participation was deemed disrespectful and contrary to the ethos of collectivism. This is what the headman had to say: We asked the community to pay. It never was too much to pay; we do not have money here, but those who were able to pay were asked to pay. Remember, it was not going to be a once-off payment. This was a long process. (Headman) The community understands that. Those who can afford [it] will always make a contribution, but that does not mean that they are exempted from the actual work, nor does it mean that those who cannot make monetary contributions must work more. We all are expected to work and that is the way it always has been. (Teacher) The act of participating in the school building project is a collective action not dictated to by outside influences such as money. While money is obviously very important the villagers clearly articulate that collective action was far more important. Local builders were hired and paid by the community. This was yet another opportunity for some of us to work closer with the builders and to learn building skills from them. (Bheki) Again, the dominating character is place and subplaces for informal, experiential and embedded learning but Bheki’s comment suggests an intention to learn, a learning consciousness and the acquisition of skills. The communal purpose of participation is critical. The goal of undertaking the project transcends interdependence; it’s about intergenerational dependence. The last category, an externally initiated project is the CCA project – a conservation NGO initiative. The common feature of these externally initiated projects is the common purpose, which seems to be the introduction of a consumerist culture by fast-tracking this community to becoming cash dependent in so many different and subtle manners. I feel I have been forgotten (in the CCA project). I was asked to support the project and make others understand as such … I am not employed [as] I was promised. I risked my life convincing people to move. Today this white boy is running away from me. (Ndlovu) The consequence of this participatory place is the destruction social cohesion. For example, Ndlovu was promised employment and certain benefits for his family only if he supported and helped convince the community to agree to the community conservation initiative (to which the community was strongly opposed). The NGO has been oppressing us for a very long time. We do not need them here. (game ranger) Similarly, the game ranger too is unequivocal about the conservation NGO’s ongoing domineering practices. Conducting this study and the negotiated purpose of the research was an overt action by the traditional council and the Chief against these learning places. Again, learning takes the form of informal, experiential and embedded learning, subtle but dehumanizing. Participation in the project thus promoted participation for material incentives for individuals in the community, as reflected by Ndlovu above. The nature of participation is characterized by a deficit approach; for example, some women were trained in permaculture, some community members were trained to work on fencing and a few were trained as field rangers (Shaw, 2010). The consequence of learning is dehumanization, facilitation of individualistic and consumerist values. Participation in different places in the village represents places of different types of learning (formal, non-formal, and informal) characterized by embeddedness in everyday communal activities. Participation and learning are merged but participation is foregrounded in the consciousness of the villagers. This is how they learn and have learnt, naturally, for decades. To an outsider these can seem like meaningless, habitual practices. In the next section I explain how meaning making in participation is facilitated. Learning in different learning spaces I draw from Rule’s (2004, 2015) categorization of dialogic space as intrapersonal, interpersonal, and context dimensions, adding diunital logic space (Karanja, 2010; Ngara, 2007) to highlight the complexity of learning in the village. According to Rule, the term ‘dialogic spaces’ refers to the abstract conception of space, where meaning making through critical reflection can be facilitated. Diunital logic is an African system of thought which incorporates Newtonian logic and the significant role of a higher being (God) in meaning making (Ngara, 2007; Karanja, 2010), making it a ‘both … and’ rather than ‘either… or’ system of thought (Karanja, 2010, p. 13). In short, this section identifies and unpacks learning and meaning making in participation. Contextual dimension space The contextual dimension space in the village plays a significant role in the life of every person who enters that physical place (village). This is the basis of meaning making in the village; it is a ‘script’ that each villager can refer to. Context is fundamentally a social creation and therefore contextual dimension space refers to the role others and the milieu play in relation to everyone else in the village. To understand the significance of this space, some contextual factors are relevant. The traditional council is ruled by the local chief, in this case a woman, on behalf of the Zulu king. At village level the chief is represented by a local headman/woman, while at homestead level the head of the household is the representative. The chief is not elected; s/he is bestowed on humanity by Umvelinqangi (He who came first, God or ‘the First Cause’). The prerogative of this institution is the facilitation and preservation of God’s values at all levels. For example, being pregnant out of wedlock is against the script and therefore correction of this wrong deed is a collective act that begins at the homestead level, village level, traditional authority and the Kings level almost simultaneously. Contextual dimension space amongst villagers is what Foucault (1991) refers to as ‘disciplinary power’ or the ‘script’ of communal values in the village. This is when one behaves in a certain way because one has learned that there is simply no other way; it is common sense and one unconsciously behaves in a certain way as if one is always being watched. Mclaren (1999) speaks of cultural pedagogy, referring to the way cultural agents generate certain hegemonic ways of viewing and understanding the world. For these reasons contextual dimension space is significant for social cohesion, interdependency and interconnectedness within and amongst the villagers. It arises and is shaped by their sociocultural context. Interpersonal dimension space Interpersonal dimension space distinguishes the communal character of knowing and meaning making as learning with each other, learning from each other, and learning amongst each other. It is learning in participation with the other, and therefore recognizes the collective as constituting an indispensable component of meaning making and knowing, and a critical ontological issue. This is learning within and amongst others, articulated by Ntseane (2011) as the I/we phenomenon passed on informally and non-formally in the village. Interpersonal dimension space in the village is fundamental in practising, facilitating and passing on key values, non-formally and informally. Non-formal learning, according to Rogers, is ‘structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support). Non-formal learning is intentional from the learner’s perspective.’ (Rogers, 2014, p. 8). Intrapersonal dimension space Intrapersonal dimension space can be understood as the ability to engage with the self in a critical reflection process characterized by an ‘either… or’ system of thought. The findings presented thus far demonstrate that dialogue with the self often takes place in the presence of others – physically, contextually or spiritually. In the contrary, intrapersonal dimension space is a conscious cause and effect reflective process of knowing or meaning making. This process was demonstrated by the pregnant women. When you find out you pregnant you wish the earth could open and eat you. It is a lonely journey of self-blame, you wonder if your own have not deserted you. How the world will look at you the next day. Will I ever be able to look at my father’s eyes again? The woman’s response highlights the ‘either… or’ system of thought that is self-blame performing unprotected sex leading to pregnancy or at that moment ‘her own had deserted her’. Important, in the fact that the first option of though seem to be the one this women attach more mean to at that moment. It highlights cause and effect processes of thoughts, a possible shift from unreflective participation to reflective participation, uncritical participation to critical participation, and instrumental participation to transformational participation. The shift happens at an intrapersonal dimension space for the good of the offending woman, family and community and the ceremony is the cerebration of this presumed shift in thought. Diunital logic space Diunitism, conversely is an act of dialogue with the self (logical reasoning) in the context of God (spiritual reasoning). This is the interplay of the body, mind and spirit in meaning making, positioned in diunital logic, which is ‘both … and’ logic. It is ‘both … and’ as opposed to the interpersonal logic above. The woman’s example above present the opposite ‘You wonder if your own.’ a clear reference to the ancestors who are always meant to protect, as option of thought does not hold equal wait as self-blame therefore dismissed. Diunital logic space will hold both systems of thoughts as equal important that is both options could be equally true. Many times I kept asking myself why this time? You tell yourself if it was meant to be so be it …we do not make these things happen… (Impregnating man) There acknowledgement of the practice of an unprotected sex at the same time the ‘why this time’ again refers to the role of the ancestors who are meant to protect one all times. The process of thought is self-blame as well as the recognition of the higher being, the understanding that only God determines our life’s destiny. Both are equally true. For instance, understanding that the ‘cleansing the yard’ ceremony is a public rebuke, a punishment for an immoral deed, and a spiritual celebration at the same time. The villagers’ belief that they are responsible for their lived lives is taken for granted. At the same time, they are mindful of the significant role that the ancestors have over their lives and therefore the need for continuously appeasing them through ceremonies. This system of though for the village person permeates other places presented as is evident in the contextual dimension space. Conclusion My conclusion is a response to the borrowed question: ‘How can we make adult learning epistemologically and ontologically authentic in the African context?’. The findings suggest that in the village there are ancient and customary formal, non-formal, and informal learning places designed to pass on critical knowledges both inter- and intragenerationally. These learning places are characterized by different and nuanced types of learning which include socialization, incidental learning, self-directed learning, and problem-based learning which make learning a life-wide process of engagement. These learning mechanisms clearly resonate with learning theories such as social learning, situated cognition, experiential learning, among others. However, the results highlight the often derelict but significant diunital logic space which is not a feature in any of the related learning theories. Recognition of the diunital logic dimension is acknowledgement of African ontological and epistemological assumptions that inform the ‘script’ that shapes the contextual space dimension, the intra- and interpersonal spaces. Finally, in reclaiming African ‘territories’ of learning I define axiology, epistemology and ontology. Umuntu (a human person) in Africa perspectives according to Ramose (2004), is the maker of knowledge and truth. Meaning that for an African person ubuntu values, I am because you are (interconnectedness) and interdependence of all things living, dead and yet to be born, become truth. Consequently, knowledge, truth and reality are value-laden, referred to as axiology (Chilisa and Preece, 2005; Hlela, 2016). In the African context knowledge, reality and truth is holistic (ontology), that is the interconnectedness and interdependence and spirituality (Dei, 1994; Ngara, 2007; Preece, 2009; Lekoko and Modise, 2011; Ntseane, 2011). In short, ontology is informed by context, environment, culture, and spirituality. Acknowledgement of this ontology, dictates an equal valuing of the body, mind and spirituality as sources and sites of meaning making, a recognition of diunital logic or diunitism – the union of opposites. This is a significant way of acquiring knowledge (epistemology) which continues to be overlooked consequently alienating many African learning in many places of learning. 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( 2001) Photovoice ethics: perspectives from Flint photovoice, Health Education & Behavior , 28 ( 5), 560– 572. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Wenger, A. ( 1999) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity , Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK; New York. Williams, G. ( 2004) Evaluating participatory development: tyranny, power and (re)politicisation, Third World Quarterly , 25 ( 3), 557– 578. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS   Zulu, I. M. ( 2006) Critical indigenous African education and knowledge, The Journal of Pan African Studies , 1 ( 3), 32– 48. Author notes Zamokwakho is a lecturer in the Discipline of Adult Education. His main interest is in learning and teaching adults, Curriculum Studies, Community Development and Research all with an Afrocentric focus. © Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. 2018 All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Community Development Journal Oxford University Press

Learning through participation: towards defining adult learning in an African rural village context

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Abstract

Abstract This article analyses the studies of adult learning in Africa, where they exist, often draw uncritically on Western theoretical and methodological frameworks such as andragogy, experiential learning, and transformative learning. These frameworks are informed by individualistic conceptions of learners and learning, shaped by industrial and postindustrial political economy, liberal democratic politics and consumerist culture. Such structures are then imposed on African ‘territories’ of learning, much like a colonial template for carving up the continent, for and under Western eyes. This article, based on a study conducted in a rural village in South Africa, challenges the appropriateness of these frameworks. It adopts an Afrocentric research paradigm which understands research as a collective and collaborative humanizing project which is contextually sensitive and culturally informed. The article presents four community learning places, defines the nature of learning in each place, and concludes that learning in the village is still informed by values of interdependence, interconnectedness, and spiritual values. Introduction While attempts to define adult learning from an African perspective have been made they remain limited and do not seem to translate into programming or curriculum design. This is particularly so because innovation and creativity are stifled by the dominant hegemonic theorization of adult learning that indirectly channels learning and influences how learning is understood and defined. This is based on the false view that knowledge can be/is free of its epistemic origins and therefore generalizable. Studies of adult learning in Africa, where they exist, often draw uncritically on Western theoretical and methodological frameworks such as andragogy, experiential learning and transformative learning. These frameworks are informed by individualistic conceptions of learners and learning, shaped by industrial and postindustrial political economy, liberal democratic politics and consumerist culture. Such structures are then imposed on African ’territories’ of learning, much like a colonial template for carving up the continent, for and under Western eyes. The need to define adult learning from an African perspective is informed by the view that current dominant definitions often reflect values and perceptions about Africa and the African context that are not African. There seems to be a lack of boldness, innovation and creativity in defining that which we as Africans know to that which others believe it to be. Hence, in African contexts, there is too often a disjuncture between community development interventions that aim to promote independence and self-reliance and the reality of community experiences and responses to these external interventions. There is a need to build more organically on community-based knowledge and learning, so that community development interventions authentically integrate the practices of the community or learners in context. Sentence takeout as per suggestion. This article argues that presenting adult learning within the continent simply as socialization, limits our understanding of experiential learning and stifles development. Based on a qualitative, empirical study conducted in a rural village in South Africa using an Afrocentric participatory research design, this article argues that adult learning within the continent is as nuanced and complex as any other form of learning and requires further exploration, particularly on issues of axiology, epistemology and ontology. Importantly, this study found that indigenous processes of learning are threatened both by the villagers themselves and outside forces. The research site – Ebunzimeni village – falls under the Kudele Traditional council (KTC) (not real names) in the province of KwaZulu-Natal and is a typical underdeveloped rural village at the geographical margins of South Africa. Located on the border of two countries (Swaziland and Mozambique) has had major implications for this village, historically an entry and exit point for political insurgents during Apartheid’s regional wars. The need for tighter border control here is imperative, but the creation of wildlife parks to improve border control in the area has encroached on village land and severely impacted people’s livelihoods. For example, ancestral land has been proclaimed a community conservation area (CCA), resulting in forced removals and the fencing off of their natural resources. This CCA is moreover run by a conservation non-governmental organization (NGO) which, for significant reasons, the community rejects. It is against this backdrop that the researcher and the KTC collaborated with a view to raise consciousness and explore alternatives to the status quo. I have worked as a nature conservation researcher for some years, particularly focusing on the settlement of land claims affecting local communities who, like Ebunzimeni, were forcibly removed from their ancestral land. This article highlights the significant contribution made by the theorization of adult learning but argues that African ontologies and epistemologies have been neglected; it argues for a hybrid approach to theorizing learning and asks how we can make adult learning epistemologically and ontologically authentic in the African context. Dominant approaches in the theorization of adult learning Thus far two approaches to theorizing adult learning have emerged from the continent; the first being the testing of foreign theories in Africa and the second, theorization from within Africa and the diaspora with an Afrocentric focus. I argue that the testing of learning theories approach, left unchallenged, contributes to cognitive and cultural injustice. The testing of foreign adult learning theories I argue reflects two dominant orientations – inclusive and exclusive. The exclusive orientation uses a ‘template’ approach that seeks conformity. There are many examples of this approach I focus here on Community/ies of Practice (CoP). CoP is presented as a predominantly collective process – people share common concerns and interests and they meet regularly to deepen their understanding and improve their practice (Wenger, 1999). Learning in the CoP relies on partnerships, structures and processes external to the individual context (Merriam and Caffarella, 1999). Learning entails movement from the periphery to the centre. In an article titled Community development research: merging (or submerging) communities of practice? A response to Van Vlaenderen, John (2004) argues for the correct understanding of the concepts and appropriate application of CoP theory. In an empirical application of the CoP approach in South Africa, Islam (2012) found that the broader implications beyond the CoP context also apply. For Islam race, culture and class are some of the factors that determine movement (or lack of movement) from the periphery to the centre. A majority of CoP studies conducted in SA among teachers, academics, and other professions (see Leshem, 2007; Cuddapah and Clayton, 2011; Cowan, 2012 among others) consistently reveal class as the most significant factor of influence. The inclusive orientation on the other hand is culturally relevant and sensitive to context, as demonstrated in the work on transformative learning theory in this journal by Merriam and Ntseane (2008), Ntseane (2011) and Cox and John (2015). Similarly, the view of learning as a process of conscientisation is dominant on the continent – as reflected in the work and views of Paulo Freire, Robert Chambers, Popular Education in South Africa. The seminal review of Mezirow’s ‘An update of transformative learning theory: a critical review of the empirical research’ (1999–2005) by Taylor (2008), signalled its inclusive orientation by presenting a critique of theory while creating opportunities for other studies to be conducted in different sociocultural contexts for the benefit and relevance of the theory. This prompted Ntseane (2011, p. 308) to ask: How can we make transformational learning culturally sensitive? However, while an inclusive orientation is characterized by clear intentions to be contextually and culturally relevant it does not draw on African epistemology or ontology. For example, Merriam and Ntseane (2008) concluded in their study of Bastwana people in Southern Africa that cultural context has a role to play in the process of transformative learning but that in that context, transformative did not equate to autonomy. Similarly, Cox and John (2015) concluded that in an abnormal context like South Africa, where African people’s lives were continuously disrupted by apartheid and the consequences thereof, structural violence (such as poverty disruption) is normalized rather than catalytic. They conclude that transformative learning does take place but suggest that traumatic experiences might not be the only triggers to transformative learning. Similarly, so-called Freirean-based approaches such as learning as a process of conscientisation (Freire, 1975), popular education (Von Kotze and Walters (2017), participatory learning action (PLA) (Chambers, 1994), self-reliant participatory learning (Williams, 2004), and learning from or within social movements (Hall et al., 2012), seek to make connections between knowledge, power, and culture to effect change (Williams, 2004), or, put differently, seek to produce the critical thought which leads to critical action (Ledwith, 2007). Again, while these approaches provide an alternative theoretical slant as well space for creativity in the theorization and facilitation of learning, the reality is that the lives of most African people to whom these methodologies are applied through interventions remain to the large extent unchanged or in some instance worse (Hlela and Land, 2006; Human Rights Watch, 2017). This suggests a disjuncture between the intention of learning and assumptions about the processes of learning. The second approach to theory generation – Afrocentric alignment – is located either in Africa or the diaspora. Afrocentrism is the discourse of scholars advocating African scholarship and African renaissance. Great strides have been made to define or make a case for African adult learning or ways of knowing. Authors such as Dei (2002), Tedla (1995), and Zulu (2006) argue for the resuscitation of an African epistemology, education and knowledge that predated Christian and Muslim invasions. Failure to recognize or value African epistemology and ontology in curricula alienates the African learner (Dei, 2002), or compromises centricity, which is the learner’s ability to culturally or otherwise connect with content (Asante, 1989). Cognitive and cultural injustice takes place when African ways of knowing are misunderstood, misinterpreted, ridiculed, or ignored in the colonial discourse (Asante, 1987; Dei, 2002; Ngara, 2007). Few empirical studies have been conducted on adult learning from an Afrocentric position. In Senegal a study with rural farmers concluded there was little evidence that the application of Western adult learning theories were useful in this context. I previously articulated the complexities of indigenous learning processes that go beyond the socialization stereotype in the context of a rural South African village. I conclude that learning is facilitated at intrapersonal, interpersonal and contextual spaces, where the roles of the teacher and learner and the places of learning are seldom defined, and where learning is often an unconscious process of participation in different life activities (Hlela, 2017). Other studies have contributed to the characterization of African indigenous learning (AIL) as spiritual; embracing the metaphysical world, community responsibilities and relationships, and gender roles as critical factors in meaning making. AIL is often holistic, embedded, unconscious, and embraces lifelong learning and informal learning (Ngara, 2007; Merriam and Ntseane, 2008; Marriam and Kim, 2008; Odora Hoppers, 2009; Lekoko and Modise, 2011; Hlela, 2017). These studies frequently concur that learning is participatory and social; reflected in phrases such as ‘sitting next to Nellie’ (Lekoko and Modise, 2011), ‘the learning taken for granted’ (Odora Hoppers, 2009) or ‘we are born like that’ (Hlela, 2017). How this learning happens still needs to be explored. Afrocentric research methodology This methodology adopts an Afrocentric Participatory Research Design (APRD) approach which draws on Asante’s (1987, 1990) Ma’at and Nommo, that is, a quest for social justice and harmony (Ma’at), based on African ways of meaning-making and generation of knowledge (Nommo). The methodology specifically embraces two distinct frameworks. First, Mazama’s (2002) seven characteristics of African research: (i) the African experience must guide and inform all inquiry; (ii) the spirituality is important and must be given its due; (iii) immersion in the subject is necessary; (iv) holism is a must; (v) intuition is a valid source of information; (vi) not everything that matters is measurable; and (vii) any knowledge generated must be liberating (Mazama, 2002, p. 27). Second, Hlela’s (2016)ujamma catalytic validity wheel of action, which is an interplay of dialogue, process, and democratic and product validity that creates a space for humanization through research and adherence to required standards of research. APRD understands research as a collective, collaborative, humanizing learning place which is contextually sensitive and culturally informed. The purpose of the research process was to give the community an opportunity to reflect on as many existing community learning places as possible and to make comparisons between these places on the basis of whether, in their view, they were humanizing or dehumanizing. In other words, participants participated in a consciousness raising project to explore alternatives to the status quo. The research process was to create opportunities for knowledge transfer by comparing different places. Participation for the locals and the research team was a journey of community self-reflection through a research design that facilitated learning amongst and between community members. Indigenous institutions were duly approached and permission to implement the study was granted. The process started by negotiating the purpose and ethical issues. This was followed by a three-day PLA community workshop involving the entire village. Six months of photo voice and a weeklong community-based and participatory data analysis process followed. PLA and photo voice are fast and effective Freirean-based approaches for getting relevant information from the local community, and helping them to understand their situation to come up with concrete plans for dealing with their situation (Chambers, 1994; Mascarenhas, 1991). Both are a means of bringing in and giving voice to minorities (Wang and Redwood-Jones, 2001). The workshop ended with the community purposively selecting a group of six members called the reflective focused group (RFG). This group received training in the research design and the ethics of photo voice and photography. The RFG collected and analysed photographs of what they understood to be participation in the village over a period of six months and through different seasons. This was followed by a community-based data analysis process. The community-based analysis was conducted in a workshop where each member of the RFG presented their narrative, through photographs, respectively, to the researcher, to the rest of the RFG and to the villagers. Each member of the RFG presented twenty photographs of what they understood to be participation in village life. Ebunzimeni is a small village with about 100 households and duplication of photographs was deemed inevitable and indeed helpful for categorization and thematization of different forms of participation and participation places. In this stage each member’s interpretation was challenged and/or supported by fellow members of the RFG who were familiar with that place of participation. Findings and discussions: place, participation, and space Places of participation in the village The study is based on the assumption that participation is learning, drawing evidence from theories such as social learning by Bandura (1986), situated cognition theory (Maynard, 2001), communities of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991), and dialogic space (Rule, 2004). In AIL, learning is participation in the practice of ubuntu (African humanism). It is through participation that one becomes human (umuntu), which reflects the values of collectivism, interconnectedness of things and spirituality (Lekoko and Modise, 2011; Preece, 2009). Learning therefore is not always a conscious or product-oriented process. It is these assumptions that inform the description of participation in these places. Out of all the photographs presented four main categories emerged: (i) cultural activities (cleansing of the yard cultural ceremony), (ii) homestead activities (water collection), (iii) community-initiated projects (school building project), and (iv) externally initiated projects (Community Conservation project). Each of these places of participation presented different but also overlapping types of participation dictated to and informed by different dynamics; for example, gender roles, value systems, and culture, to name a few. The nature of learning in different learning places In this section I briefly describe the four places of participation and the nature of learning in each place. Ukuhlanza amagceke is a cultural ceremony; the words mean literally: ‘cleansing the yard by the one who dirtied it’ and is a public and communal acknowledgement of the breach of morality when a woman falls pregnant out of wedlock. This act goes against the ‘script’ of communal values. The man who has impregnated must ‘cleanse the yard’ by handing over a cow and goat as a symbol of remorse and taking responsibility. This is reflected in comments below: It is about shaming the bad deed at the same time celebrate and acknowledge new life. (Headman) Again, the same sentiments about learning are implicitly expressed by a female member of the RFG: Young people do not listen anymore but this reminds them of what is wrong and right. (Thoko) The purpose of the cultural practice is reflected in Headman’s comment which suggest a dual purpose for the practice – to punish (morale generation) and to celebrate new life (spirituality). It publicly shames the undesired behaviour but celebrates the life to come. On the other hand Thembi’s comment suggest the young one’s as target learners. Participation in the ceremony is voluntary, submerged and embedded in the daily activities of the village such slaughtering of the beast, cooking, and other activities. Because of its value as a place of non-formal learning all villagers, young and old, are expected to participate. The older and wiser become teachers who dictate how learning takes place in these subplaces. Importantly, at a community level, it is about individuals coming together for the collective good, and Thoko’s words suggest that participation in this place is designed to be a learning place for all involved – not just the pregnant woman or man who has impregnated her. The ceremony become a place where collective values are explicitly practiced and implicitly passed on. The main characteristic of learning in all subplaces is embeddedness in different activities: it is hands on, practical, common practice, embedded, repetitive, value laden. The ceremony as a non-formal, educational event, presents different types of learning opportunity such as socialization, incidental learning and self-directed learning. Most importantly, the learning and teaching is a spiritual exercise; it is a celebration of the connection between the unborn to the dead (ancestors) and the living. Learning therefore does not always have to be a conscious well-structured process of meaning making. The function of the ceremony in the village is the intergenerational and intragenerational passing and maintenance of critical values – the passing on of skills, knowledge and attitudes – and is an educational event in which every member of the village is expected to participate. Participation in the ceremony by community member become a place of learning the communal values, the same place also creates subplaces for other forms of learnings for different participants. In the household activity category, collecting water is a very important activity, particularly for women. As indicated, there is no running water in the village, making the waterhole a critical place for those who participate in collecting water. Indeed, human beings need water for different purposes in order to survive. In the dry season, it can take one person over 30 min to fill up a 25-l container. Waterholes are a distance from the households, so women walk in groups with 25-l containers balanced on their heads. The study found that the waterhole was a critical place which has a far more important function for participants than gendered act of water collection. The waterhole become a place for learning and teaching amongst women. I asked a group of women at the waterhole what they talk about: There is nothing else we do, think or talk about but our children. We look at the time when it is 12 o’clock and we have not cooked for the children and we think what they will eat. We know it’s time to go. (MaSiba) We talk about everything. (MaCele) The response by the two women suggests close-knit relationships amongst members that I as an outsider cannot enter. The responses were intended to shut me off, possibly because I am a man. However, MaZulu’s response after my hanging around for a long time gives a sense of the significance of these meetings: It’s not easy sometimes – you need someone to talk too. I do not come from this village. I came here to be married and I had to get to know other women as I only live with my in-laws and my husband is away. The group helps me to go back home and be a better ‘bride’ to the household. (MaZulu) Besides ‘problem-based’ learning suggested above, indicates intentionality, consciousness and willingness to participate or learn, suggesting that the waterhole is a place of self-directed and context-based learning. Importantly, it is a place where women connect with each other. The third category was a community-initiated project – in this instance a community-built, community-managed and community-funded three-classroom high school. This is a post-1994 project, which the SA democratic government should provide. High-school-going children in the village had to walk 10 km to the closest high school or pay for transport. Alternatively, their parents would have to rent a place for the child in the village where the high school was located. The last two options were very expensive and consequently most children only completed primary education. Participation in the high-school building project was ‘voluntary’; at the same time, non-participation was deemed disrespectful and contrary to the ethos of collectivism. This is what the headman had to say: We asked the community to pay. It never was too much to pay; we do not have money here, but those who were able to pay were asked to pay. Remember, it was not going to be a once-off payment. This was a long process. (Headman) The community understands that. Those who can afford [it] will always make a contribution, but that does not mean that they are exempted from the actual work, nor does it mean that those who cannot make monetary contributions must work more. We all are expected to work and that is the way it always has been. (Teacher) The act of participating in the school building project is a collective action not dictated to by outside influences such as money. While money is obviously very important the villagers clearly articulate that collective action was far more important. Local builders were hired and paid by the community. This was yet another opportunity for some of us to work closer with the builders and to learn building skills from them. (Bheki) Again, the dominating character is place and subplaces for informal, experiential and embedded learning but Bheki’s comment suggests an intention to learn, a learning consciousness and the acquisition of skills. The communal purpose of participation is critical. The goal of undertaking the project transcends interdependence; it’s about intergenerational dependence. The last category, an externally initiated project is the CCA project – a conservation NGO initiative. The common feature of these externally initiated projects is the common purpose, which seems to be the introduction of a consumerist culture by fast-tracking this community to becoming cash dependent in so many different and subtle manners. I feel I have been forgotten (in the CCA project). I was asked to support the project and make others understand as such … I am not employed [as] I was promised. I risked my life convincing people to move. Today this white boy is running away from me. (Ndlovu) The consequence of this participatory place is the destruction social cohesion. For example, Ndlovu was promised employment and certain benefits for his family only if he supported and helped convince the community to agree to the community conservation initiative (to which the community was strongly opposed). The NGO has been oppressing us for a very long time. We do not need them here. (game ranger) Similarly, the game ranger too is unequivocal about the conservation NGO’s ongoing domineering practices. Conducting this study and the negotiated purpose of the research was an overt action by the traditional council and the Chief against these learning places. Again, learning takes the form of informal, experiential and embedded learning, subtle but dehumanizing. Participation in the project thus promoted participation for material incentives for individuals in the community, as reflected by Ndlovu above. The nature of participation is characterized by a deficit approach; for example, some women were trained in permaculture, some community members were trained to work on fencing and a few were trained as field rangers (Shaw, 2010). The consequence of learning is dehumanization, facilitation of individualistic and consumerist values. Participation in different places in the village represents places of different types of learning (formal, non-formal, and informal) characterized by embeddedness in everyday communal activities. Participation and learning are merged but participation is foregrounded in the consciousness of the villagers. This is how they learn and have learnt, naturally, for decades. To an outsider these can seem like meaningless, habitual practices. In the next section I explain how meaning making in participation is facilitated. Learning in different learning spaces I draw from Rule’s (2004, 2015) categorization of dialogic space as intrapersonal, interpersonal, and context dimensions, adding diunital logic space (Karanja, 2010; Ngara, 2007) to highlight the complexity of learning in the village. According to Rule, the term ‘dialogic spaces’ refers to the abstract conception of space, where meaning making through critical reflection can be facilitated. Diunital logic is an African system of thought which incorporates Newtonian logic and the significant role of a higher being (God) in meaning making (Ngara, 2007; Karanja, 2010), making it a ‘both … and’ rather than ‘either… or’ system of thought (Karanja, 2010, p. 13). In short, this section identifies and unpacks learning and meaning making in participation. Contextual dimension space The contextual dimension space in the village plays a significant role in the life of every person who enters that physical place (village). This is the basis of meaning making in the village; it is a ‘script’ that each villager can refer to. Context is fundamentally a social creation and therefore contextual dimension space refers to the role others and the milieu play in relation to everyone else in the village. To understand the significance of this space, some contextual factors are relevant. The traditional council is ruled by the local chief, in this case a woman, on behalf of the Zulu king. At village level the chief is represented by a local headman/woman, while at homestead level the head of the household is the representative. The chief is not elected; s/he is bestowed on humanity by Umvelinqangi (He who came first, God or ‘the First Cause’). The prerogative of this institution is the facilitation and preservation of God’s values at all levels. For example, being pregnant out of wedlock is against the script and therefore correction of this wrong deed is a collective act that begins at the homestead level, village level, traditional authority and the Kings level almost simultaneously. Contextual dimension space amongst villagers is what Foucault (1991) refers to as ‘disciplinary power’ or the ‘script’ of communal values in the village. This is when one behaves in a certain way because one has learned that there is simply no other way; it is common sense and one unconsciously behaves in a certain way as if one is always being watched. Mclaren (1999) speaks of cultural pedagogy, referring to the way cultural agents generate certain hegemonic ways of viewing and understanding the world. For these reasons contextual dimension space is significant for social cohesion, interdependency and interconnectedness within and amongst the villagers. It arises and is shaped by their sociocultural context. Interpersonal dimension space Interpersonal dimension space distinguishes the communal character of knowing and meaning making as learning with each other, learning from each other, and learning amongst each other. It is learning in participation with the other, and therefore recognizes the collective as constituting an indispensable component of meaning making and knowing, and a critical ontological issue. This is learning within and amongst others, articulated by Ntseane (2011) as the I/we phenomenon passed on informally and non-formally in the village. Interpersonal dimension space in the village is fundamental in practising, facilitating and passing on key values, non-formally and informally. Non-formal learning, according to Rogers, is ‘structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support). Non-formal learning is intentional from the learner’s perspective.’ (Rogers, 2014, p. 8). Intrapersonal dimension space Intrapersonal dimension space can be understood as the ability to engage with the self in a critical reflection process characterized by an ‘either… or’ system of thought. The findings presented thus far demonstrate that dialogue with the self often takes place in the presence of others – physically, contextually or spiritually. In the contrary, intrapersonal dimension space is a conscious cause and effect reflective process of knowing or meaning making. This process was demonstrated by the pregnant women. When you find out you pregnant you wish the earth could open and eat you. It is a lonely journey of self-blame, you wonder if your own have not deserted you. How the world will look at you the next day. Will I ever be able to look at my father’s eyes again? The woman’s response highlights the ‘either… or’ system of thought that is self-blame performing unprotected sex leading to pregnancy or at that moment ‘her own had deserted her’. Important, in the fact that the first option of though seem to be the one this women attach more mean to at that moment. It highlights cause and effect processes of thoughts, a possible shift from unreflective participation to reflective participation, uncritical participation to critical participation, and instrumental participation to transformational participation. The shift happens at an intrapersonal dimension space for the good of the offending woman, family and community and the ceremony is the cerebration of this presumed shift in thought. Diunital logic space Diunitism, conversely is an act of dialogue with the self (logical reasoning) in the context of God (spiritual reasoning). This is the interplay of the body, mind and spirit in meaning making, positioned in diunital logic, which is ‘both … and’ logic. It is ‘both … and’ as opposed to the interpersonal logic above. The woman’s example above present the opposite ‘You wonder if your own.’ a clear reference to the ancestors who are always meant to protect, as option of thought does not hold equal wait as self-blame therefore dismissed. Diunital logic space will hold both systems of thoughts as equal important that is both options could be equally true. Many times I kept asking myself why this time? You tell yourself if it was meant to be so be it …we do not make these things happen… (Impregnating man) There acknowledgement of the practice of an unprotected sex at the same time the ‘why this time’ again refers to the role of the ancestors who are meant to protect one all times. The process of thought is self-blame as well as the recognition of the higher being, the understanding that only God determines our life’s destiny. Both are equally true. For instance, understanding that the ‘cleansing the yard’ ceremony is a public rebuke, a punishment for an immoral deed, and a spiritual celebration at the same time. The villagers’ belief that they are responsible for their lived lives is taken for granted. At the same time, they are mindful of the significant role that the ancestors have over their lives and therefore the need for continuously appeasing them through ceremonies. This system of though for the village person permeates other places presented as is evident in the contextual dimension space. Conclusion My conclusion is a response to the borrowed question: ‘How can we make adult learning epistemologically and ontologically authentic in the African context?’. The findings suggest that in the village there are ancient and customary formal, non-formal, and informal learning places designed to pass on critical knowledges both inter- and intragenerationally. These learning places are characterized by different and nuanced types of learning which include socialization, incidental learning, self-directed learning, and problem-based learning which make learning a life-wide process of engagement. These learning mechanisms clearly resonate with learning theories such as social learning, situated cognition, experiential learning, among others. However, the results highlight the often derelict but significant diunital logic space which is not a feature in any of the related learning theories. Recognition of the diunital logic dimension is acknowledgement of African ontological and epistemological assumptions that inform the ‘script’ that shapes the contextual space dimension, the intra- and interpersonal spaces. Finally, in reclaiming African ‘territories’ of learning I define axiology, epistemology and ontology. Umuntu (a human person) in Africa perspectives according to Ramose (2004), is the maker of knowledge and truth. Meaning that for an African person ubuntu values, I am because you are (interconnectedness) and interdependence of all things living, dead and yet to be born, become truth. Consequently, knowledge, truth and reality are value-laden, referred to as axiology (Chilisa and Preece, 2005; Hlela, 2016). In the African context knowledge, reality and truth is holistic (ontology), that is the interconnectedness and interdependence and spirituality (Dei, 1994; Ngara, 2007; Preece, 2009; Lekoko and Modise, 2011; Ntseane, 2011). In short, ontology is informed by context, environment, culture, and spirituality. Acknowledgement of this ontology, dictates an equal valuing of the body, mind and spirituality as sources and sites of meaning making, a recognition of diunital logic or diunitism – the union of opposites. This is a significant way of acquiring knowledge (epistemology) which continues to be overlooked consequently alienating many African learning in many places of learning. 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For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

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Community Development JournalOxford University Press

Published: May 23, 2018

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