Cover image: Let's learn about real people

Let's learn about real people

John Cleverley manages the education department at Send a Cow. Here he shares his perspective on what makes good learning, and good global learning. I’ve always been a fan of learning. I’m one of those people that really enjoyed school and would happily re-visit my school days if a time machine turned up. And I’m still keen on reading things that pique my interest today - the advent of smartphones and tablets has enabled me to cram much of my spare time with watching videos and reading articles online. But I also know that many people don’t enjoy learning in this way. They are un-like many of us in the Global Learning Community and they are not that interested, for whatever reason, in the things that we are passionate about. Before I worked in development education I taught in a Pupil Referral Unit, with a KS3 ‘behaviour difficulties’ group. One of those places where pupils go who are not interested or ‘good’ at the UK’s version of education. These young people gave me a rounded picture of what learning is, and an understanding of their own lives, successes and failures. Many of them were affected by all sorts of poverties. Their lives were complex, they each had a different story and many ‘failures’ were actually successes given their backgrounds. Before, they were a stereotype, now they are real people to me, living real lives. What has this got to do with global learning? Well, in our community we regularly talk about poverty in the global south on behalf of the people living there. We often talk about how an NGO has helped people and about the poverty and issues that affect them. Many do really well at building a fuller picture of people’s everyday lives; some of the videos from ‘Our Africa’ by SOS Children’s Villages and the book ‘Perceptions of Africa’ are good examples. I think with charities’ budgets being cut and education funding changing, we all need a reminder to commit to giving an even more rounded picture of the realities for people living in African countries and the global south in general, and not just fundraising messages. We should feel free to talk about the incidental things of people’s lives as well as the issues that they face (issues are often an opportunity to talk about poverty(ies) in the UK too, and not just economic poverty.) So, I’d like to remind and encourage us all (including myself) to keep working together to help global learning be about real people, their real successes and failures and about things which are not just about the work of ‘charity’. Let’s move away from what we want to tell young people and start with what they would be interested to hear about, then take it from there. In doing so, they might just start a journey of life-long learning and develop their very own desire to find out more and start thinking critically. Or, they make simply end up with a more realistic and rounded view of the world, which is no bad thing. Lessons from Africa logoOne of Send a Cow's new projects is the Lessons from Africa website which seeks to give a rounded view of the continent wherever possible. Here are some of my favourite resources on that website. Make a plastic bag football, just for the fun of it but with plenty of inferred learning: Surprising facts about Africa? Be inspired by Lorna from Uganda to recycle: We need your help to have more rounded images and more great resources on our Lessons from Africa website. Have you got any lesson plans, resources and photos of African artefacts that you would like to share? Please let us know on and we’ll be in touch. After about nine years at the helm of Development Education at Send a Cow, I’m now moving on to some other exciting work in Uganda. I’ll be moving there with my young family in May to facilitate some community development work with a number of slum communities around Kampala. I hope to work closely with all sorts of local organisations, as well as Send a Cow farmers to bring some of the techniques and values that I’ve learnt over the years to this new work. I won’t know what it will look until I go and do a lot of listening, but some of the work may include:
  • improving sanitation using Tip Tap hand-washers and compost toilets;
  • making cooking safer by adapting the fuel-wood stove design for slum use;
  • all sorts of high density, vertical gardens, like bag and bottle gardens
  • and making sure that the community become the experts in all this so they can pass it on and start flourishing.
It’s a new and very steep learning curve now for me! If you’re interested in finding out more about what I’ll be up to, then please do visit our blog that we’ll be adding to regularly over time: