THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE

Use this time to foster reading culture

The world is full of learning opportunities, they just need to be recognised.

In Summary
  • Although schools closed, bookshops did not.
  • The Kenya National Library system is still operational. It has some of the finest book collection anywhere in the world.

One of the most outstanding effects of the Covid-19 pandemic is the suspension of formal delivery of education. The suspension of schooling, however, does not mean the end of learning. Learning happens inside the mind. It is not dependent on classrooms or teachers. It usually starts with curiosity and a search for information.

The school provides the foundation—reading, writing and ciphering—that if well established, should enable young people to continue learning wherever they are. Perhaps, what effective schooling does is to open up the minds of children to the ocean of knowledge there is to be explored. It takes curiosity and some level of restlessness to want to look for bases or storehouses of knowledge.

The knowledge that constitutes the crucible of education is found in books—fiction and non-fiction. We have nonfiction books on basic science and arts as well as fictional works—novels, plays, poetry, folklore—with the potential to nurture the innate expressive, creative and imaginative skills all children are endowed with. We have materials on speeches and reports touching on problems, challenges and issues mankind has dealt with.

These are storehouses of information, knowledge and wisdom that young people can give their time and energies to during these unusual times. Although schools closed, bookshops did not. The Kenya National Library system is still operational. It has some of the finest book collection anywhere in the world. Children and parents can borrow books from the service.

Parents, and even children, know someone in their neighbourhoods who has a private library and from whom they can borrow books.

It is said schooling is done in school but education can happen anywhere. Education suggests a high standard. Schooling is whatever quality a school offers. Acceptable standards of education are not confined to a school setting, important to modern civilisation as schooling might be.

A common thread in some of the most outstanding individuals in history is an abiding interest in reading and asking questions and seeking answers either from books or from comparatively knowledgeable people around them.

Education happens everywhere—in school, at home and in the fields. Children with the motivation to learn can actually develop a daily regime under which they can acquire education that includes and goes beyond the prescribed curriculum. They can deepen and broaden what they learn in school through accessing books with high value content in basic sciences, the arts and the humanities.

Education doesn’t start when we go to school. Nor does it stop when schools close or when we graduate. The world is full of learning opportunities, they just need to be recognised. Education never truly pauses or ends. Nor is it confined to a course book.

We have the responsibility as parents, guardians and educators to guide children and young people to make the most of all the learning opportunities available in their immediate environment. We should impress on them that education is not about examinations, important though they are in our modern system of education.

Education goes beyond buildings, buses, unions, administrators and teachers. It is not restricted to testing, dress codes, school rules, lessons and timetables. Education is the cultivation of the personality children and young people are endowed with. It is the endless cultivation of learning undertaken in the belief that children should have the chance to actively participate in the joys and challenges of life.

Schooling is one institution designed for such cultivation. But it’s not the only one, as omnipresent in the life of children and young people as it might look.

The prolonged closure of schools should not dampen the morale of children to learn. They should invigorate their minds, hearts and minds by reading textbooks provided by the government. Then they should venture beyond textbooks by reading books on similar concepts but which will help deepen and broaden their appreciation of knowledge, and in the process strengthen their skill sets.

Children should talk to or listen to their guardians. They will learn something. A common thread in some of the most outstanding individuals in history is an abiding interest in reading and asking questions and seeking answers either from books or from comparatively knowledgeable people around them.

Communications officer, Ministry of Education