Traditionally older generations educate younger ones. Knowledge passes from older, wiser heads to less experienced ones. But sometimes it goes the other way around.
Rescue Reading in Chile
The people in the Araucanía region of Chile are among the poorest in the country and the worst affected are often retired people, including teachers – who receive very little by way of a pension. But the problem is not just financial. Retired people can also suffer from isolation.
So a charity called Fundación Araucanía Aprende aims to help by employing retired teachers to help the most deprived and poorest children to learn to read.
Carlos Dreves from the association explained: “We deal with socially vulnerable children who lack skills because they are badly educated and on the other hand we have retired workers, who are available and very good at their job. So we pay retired teachers two dollars for each extra word that pupils can read per minute, in line with a scale drawn up according to age.”
Supernet – New Zealand
Often retired people are not only eager to teach, but also to learn. One example comes from Hamilton, New Zealand, where seniors have gone back to school with the aim of catching up with technology. They have joined Supernet – a specially designed class where young adults teach their elders how to surf the internet.
Volunteers teach retired people how to use computers. Supernet was set up seven years ago by the Methodist Church and relies on donations and volunteer teachers. They have around 10 students who are retired people.
But the gains are not all one way. Diamond, who is 68-year-old is learning computer skills, while 37-year-old Raymond gains valuable teaching experience. He is about to enrol on a six-month course to learn to teach adults. And everyone gains from the human contact.
Diamond came to New Zealand from China two years ago and now he wants to teach English to Chinese people who have just arrived.
Maasai traditional teaching
We move from the internet jungle to the forests of Tanzania. The tribes there are trying to preserve their culture by transferring indigenous knowledge to young people.
The Maasai pass information about their land from one generation to the next without ever writing anything down. This knowledge and their cultural traditions form the backbone of their society – and the way men are divided into age groups is part of controlling how this knowledge is transferred and preserved.
Maasai society is divided into generational groups. Moranis, or warriors, are initiated through a circumcision ceremony every 15 years or so. This involves most boys between 12 and 25 who have reached puberty and are not part of the previous generation of Moranis.
Evenings are spent telling traditional stories. Mostly, the Maasai do not read and write but all the young people in this community go to school. However traditional teaching is still the most important part of their education.