By TANATSWA CHIVHERE
I signed up for the IiNtetho zoBomi course because my friend told me that it was relatively easy. As a second-year Law and Journalism major at Rhodes University, my goal was to lighten up my load as much I could. A course without tests and exams sounded like a dream. I thought I could pass with relatively minimal effort.
What I did not expect is how much the course would change my outlook on life.
In our first lecture, Dr Lindsay Kelland told us that the course would teach us lessons that no one had ever bothered to during our school careers.
This was the perfect description of the course. Who else has ever taught about conformity and groupthink? Or about status anxiety and the importance of retrospection?
I remember how we learned about self-love during our first lecture. In high school, we are told that it’s important to have high self-esteem. We are also taught about other values such as compassion, honesty, and integrity. But they failed to teach us about self-love and the power which it holds. According to feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde, self-love is an act of political warfare. The world is not kind to a person who truly knows their value. After all, the basis of capitalism is about making people want more. Thus, to be truly satisfied with oneself is a slap in capitalism’s face.
This is the knowledge that I wish I had acquired earlier. I wish I had been taught to love my skin before buying countless beauty products. I wish I had been taught how to embrace my natural hair before I spent so much money trying to hide it. I wish someone could have given me practical knowledge of the art of self-love.
IiNtetho zoBomi made me question the way in which I saw education. For the past 16 years, the value of my education has been calculated by a mark between 0-100. The mark determined whether I was ready for the next step of school. After seven years, I received a certificate. After an additional four years, I received yet another one. Two years later, I received the one which secured my place in a university. Next April, I will receive perhaps the most important certificate of all. It’s crazy to think that all I have to show for my education is a bunch of certificates. I am defined by what those certificates say. Those certificates will not tell you about how my boarding school prefects taught me how to make a bed with perfect “Chinese corners”. The certificates won’t tell you how I can effectively kill a rat with nothing but a broom and a mop. The certificates will not reveal how I can make a gourmet meal from noodles, baked beans, and tinned beef. This shows that the rewards of education are not in the certificates we hold, but rather the lessons that we learn along the way.
The course changed the way in which I viewed the content of my education. Most of the topics we are taught in school are at surface level. We learn about definitions and explanations. But that’s it. The current education system does not teach us how the content affects our daily lives. It is difficult to think of the Pythagoras theorem applying to everyday life.
In IiNtetho zoBomi we were taught on topics which actually contributed to our quality of life and outlook. For example, we learned about privilege and how to use it properly. As a black woman I never thought I had any privilege – but speaking among my peers during tutorials showed me how my economic status and my sexuality have afforded me certain privileges.
As a result, before I participate in a debate, I always make sure to check my privilege. The course showed me that I would be a better citizen for my society had my courses included lessons which could be used in everyday settings.
Through IiNthetho zoBomi, I found myself participating in Service-learning for the first time. The topic was foreign to me and my contribution to the community was so far limited to donations.
Service-learning taught me how my education could contribute to the education of others. I thought teaching was reserved for the people who were aptly certified. The course showed me how my knowledge, no matter how modest, could change someone else’s life.
My mentee, who was reserved at first, opened up in a way which allowed me to learn from her. She helped me with my isiXhosa, both oral and written, while I helped her with her English. This was the first time that I had been truly satisfied with my learning. Seeing a person’s grammar gradually increase due to my contribution made me feel proud. It was satisfying to know that I helped others on my path to attaining knowledge.
Courses such as IiNtetho zoBomi are important to the development of students. If I had a choice, I would make such unconventional courses compulsory. The course’s focus on self-awareness produces better citizens.
Most of us who have done the course can testify to how it made us more aware of how our thoughts and actions impact the world as a whole. IiNtetho zoBomi has changed the way in which I view my place in the world and how to use that place to better not only my life, but those of others around me.