For ages, education has been at the heart of society. It continues to be a social institution through which society provides its members with important knowledge, basic facts, survival instincts, and passage of cultural norms and values. Traditionally, education in South Sudan and Africa at large was considered a concern of the entire society. It was viewed from a global perspective and understood as a collective responsibility.

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A pupil in class_©Naftalin UNICEF South Sudan

One of the enduring “inherited circumstances” of colonialism in Africa was the introduction of a Eurocentric Education System. The purpose was not to inculcate and develop African indigenous knowledge and cultural values, but to undermine African history and the ideas of the indigenous people to pave the way for the so-called “civilization”. For decades, the products of this system have failed to find pragmatic solutions to Africa’s political, social, economic, and technological challenges from within and outside the continent. Poverty, unemployment, inequality, inadequate infrastructure, and poor health care have remained serious barriers to Africa’s advancement. The continent has experienced unprecedented economic, social, and diplomatic marginalization entrenched in her inability to influence “decision making, agenda setting, and thought control” in international issues and hence the fight to decolonize this education system.   

Decolonization in the African context can be defined as the process of exposing and dismantling colonist power in all its forms in Africa’s institutions of learning. In education, this refers to the knowledge, language, and the entire institutional culture that sustain education. Decolonization of education asks what knowledge to include or exclude in education syllabi. it calls for the inclusion of humanity’s knowledge systems into the curriculum and knowledge selection systems of universities and schools. This would require a mental shift in all of us, Europeans, Asians, Africans, Arabs, Americans, etc. to move away from a single worldview (Eurocentric) and understanding of the world in a single view to a more pluralistic view. This would entail the process of “Africanisation” that recognizes the validity and relevance of African knowledge in global knowledge production. Within the South Sudanese context, this calls on faculty to address a series of curricular, pedagogical, and evaluative challenges.

Why Architectural as a Medium of Decolonizing Basic Education in South Sudan

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A child in South Sudan Studies in a School_© Sebastian Rich UNICEF South Sudan

Much as architectural education in the country and continent at large needs decolonization to form an architectural education that is contextually relevant to the social realities of the continent, acknowledges all the prevailing exigencies of its local economies, culture, climate, urban fabric and can become a base for tropical vernacular architecture, sustainable building materials, low-cost housing, and design in multi-ethnic societies, it is still uniquely positioned to decolonize other disciplines and forms of education as its contents of architecture are epistemologically diverse and draw knowledge and processes from the humanities, the arts, the natural and the social sciences, architecture is perhaps uniquely positioned to develop transposable, decolonization methodologies with the potential to resonate across a range of other disciplines.

Architecture as the scientific art of designing buildings and structures is also positioned uniquely as a medium or tool of decolonization because spaces in which learning occurs are shaped by the profession i.e. true decolonization of basic or general education in Africa or South Sudan can only be fully achieved once every aspect of the curriculums, pedagogies and the environments of learning are fully rethought.

How Architecture can be a Medium of Decolonizing Basic Education in South Sudan

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School Pupils playing chess _ ©Victor Lugala, DOC Specialist, USAID South Sudan

After 22 years [1983-2005] of civil war between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/ Movement (SPLA/M), Sudan was divided into two nations; Sudan and South Sudan on the 9th of July 2011 as a result of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. As a new nation, South Sudan faces the daunting task of building itself from scratch. A task that can only see success with a reformed basic education as its base.

In September 2015, the (Ministry of General Education and Instruction) MoEST launched the first comprehensive national education curriculum for South Sudan. The four key aims of the South Sudan curriculum framework are to create (1) good citizens of South Sudan, (2) successful lifelong learners, (3) creative and productive individuals, and (4) environmentally responsible members of society. The revised curriculum also aims to focus on promoting national citizenship, unity, and cohesion, as well as peace education and equity and equality for the status of women. To do this, subjects such as Citizenship and instruction of Early Childhood and Primary 1-3 in a national language selected by the school to best fit with local needs and circumstances were introduced. Much as the new curriculum addresses most of the current issues in the global and a bit in the local sense, there is a need to reshape the contents and methodologies of delivering these reshaped contents to better fit South Sudanese realities even further. 

Architecture as a guide to setting early childhood development Curriculum (ECD) in South Sudan.

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A teacher teaching numbers _ ©httpswww.un.orgafricarenewalmagazineseptember-2022africas-future-depends-its-childrens-foundational-learning-today

The ECD Curriculum covers the period from 3 to 5 years old. It is a key phase of development when children develop very rapidly intellectually, physically, socially, and emotionally. It is a time when they are exploring the world and finding their place within it. They learn through play. They need a rich range of practical activities and the time and independence to investigate and find out what things do. This will give them practical knowledge and experience on which theoretical learning can be built later. 

The ECD Curriculum is to have four frameworks

  • Learning to communicate.

In this, the children are given as many opportunities to do and talk with adults and to each other. Here, they are also encouraged to ask questions and to suggest their ideas, and these ideas are valued by their teachers.

  • Critical and Creative Thinking

At the heart of learning, children explore the world around them and try to make sense of it. This a period when young children move from individual to social.

  • Team Work  

Work and play with others is a crucial parts of children’s development.

  • Culture and Heritage

All learning at this stage is part of the induction of young children into their culture. From behavior and beliefs to the songs, rhymes, and stories, all learning contributes to their cultural development.

Curriculum Content 

  • Incorporation of nature and all its changing conditions into children’s play and experience.
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A child playing with mud_ ©httpswww.bbc.co.ukbitesizearticlesz8fdr2p

For children, play is learning. There is no better space for kids to learn than the outdoors, and there is no better element of learning in the outdoor space (s) than nature simply because nature encourages physical and imaginative play. Elements such as sand, water, and trees can be used in the following ways to greatly enhance a child’s learning experience;

Sand.

Sand is great for ECD age groups (2-5) because of its availability in abundance. It can be used to make basic and interesting shapes, objects such as cars, and animals such as cows which can teach wealth in their traditional settings. 

Water

Water can be used to create portions of wet sand. 

Water can also teach sanitation, general hygiene, and common causes of diseases such as malaria.

Gardens.

Gardens are great for practical observational lessons for kids. Here kids get to observe nature evolve on its own.

Kids can also be taught responsibility by learning ways of maintaining the garden. 

  • Encouraging play involving elements of risk as these elements leads to a whole of development benefits for children aged between two and five, such as problem-solving and focus.
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Risky-Play_ ©httpsbridgewaycentre.caplay-ideabenefits-of-risky-play

Children engage in risky play by experimenting and pushing themselves to predict what will happen without knowing the precise result. Play for children can become boring if they don’t take it far enough or frightening if they take it too far. Kids learn about the world and their bodies through play, which is a fundamental part of how they learn about the world. Early exposure to risky play can help children build self-esteem, resilience, executive functioning skills, and even risk management abilities.

Six important elements of risky play.

  • Climbing trees or other structures is one way to experiment with heights.
  • Play at a high rate of speed, like playing tag quickly or riding a bike quickly.
  • Build a fort or whittle a stick while playing with tools.
  • Play close to natural elements, such as those that involve fire, water, cliffs, or areas where a child could fall.
  • Play that involves the potential for getting lost includes hiding in the bushes for younger children or unsupervised neighborhood wandering with friends.
  • Rough-and-tumble play, like pretending to fight.
  • Setting of playground equipment design guides to be used by all pre-schools across the country i.e. instead of playground equipment being predefined, it should be more adaptable to children’s imagination.
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characteristics-of-early-childhood-playground-equipment_ ©httpswww.aaastateofplay.com-characteristics-of-early-childhood-playground-equipment

Children learn a lot about themselves and the world around them as they explore the world as toddlers and preschoolers. They are learning how to move, how to think, and how to interact with others. A child can advance all of these aspects of development and improve their physical health while having a great time when they can play on a playground.

Beginning with an understanding of the goals of playgrounds for children in this age range, one can better understand early childhood playground design. The physical activity and social-emotional learning that playground equipment promotes are good for kids of all ages. Playgrounds are great for developing gross motor skills in toddlers and preschoolers, which is one of their main advantages.  The objective is to create an environment where children can fully experience their childhood.

Larger muscle groups that we use to move our bodies are involved in gross motor skills. The development of gross motor skills enables babies to start rolling over or crawling and is what enables preschoolers to play hopscotch. These physical abilities include; Walking, Climbing, Balancing, inner fortitude, Flexibility, Skipping, and Jumping.

  • Encouragement of elders from communities around schools as teachers of oral history (stories and plays) other than having just trained formal educators.

Traditionally, education in Africa was considered a concern of the entire society.  It was viewed from a global perspective, not as a set of specializations, and understood as a collective responsibility. It is, therefore, crucial that elders from the surrounding communities to schools take part in the passing down of knowledge to the young ones.

  • Blending more art subjects such as architecture so that the children have a basic and wider understanding of the world around them.

The objective is to introduce architecture and design straightforwardly and creatively through the use of building, painting, and drawing while also developing an understanding of scale, color, structure, and space. Such work, which enables cultural idioms to be tested in practice concerning the various facets of art, is well suited for inclusion in teaching plans. More specifically, the objectives established for the work in future years include;

To provide knowledge to children and young people as well as expertise in architecture and design.

To impart an appreciation for design and architecture to children and young people.

To put architecture and design’s potential to the test in the classroom, at play, and in daily life.

Teaching citizenship starting from this level to ease the practical aspect of the subject as the kids grow older. 

  • Incorporating knowledge from children’s homes and communities into teaching 

In this, children’s homes and communities are to become rich sources for fostering knowledge and skills in classrooms through home visits by teachers and the children to notice important “tools/items” (technology) in the home such as cooking and eating utensils. This connects to learning about relationships between the function and structure of everyday home materials.   

Architecture as a guide to setting Primary School Curriculum in South Sudan

To face the challenges of the 21st Century, young people need to be knowledgeable and have a good understanding of the key subject areas. They also need to possess the skills and the attitudes to make good use of that knowledge and apply it in the service of the community. The subject knowledge together with the skills and attitudes form the competencies that will equip learners to become global citizens in the 21st Century. Citizens of South Sudan need a clear sense of identity and an understanding and appreciation of the rich culture and heritage of their own country.   

Architecture education promotes design-thinking and problem-solving skills. By researching, analyzing, brainstorming, and designing, one can learn about the creative processes underlying architecture alongside the systematic way of exploratory learning.

The core curriculum influenced by architecture would describe eight transversal competence areas that epitomize education’s aims and reflect the competencies needed in all life spheres. The competence areas, each of which is an entity of knowledge, skills, values, attitudes, and will, are;

  • Community-based approach to learning
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Community engagement_©httpsconsiliumeducation.comitm20190521learning-support-in-malawi

Community-based learning is a method of teaching and learning that combines instruction, reflection, and meaningful community involvement to enhance the learning process and place more emphasis on reciprocal learning. Educators use a wide range of instructional strategies and initiatives known as “community-based learning” to link the material they teach in the classroom to the local institutions, historical and literary works, folklore, and natural environments of the area. The idea that all communities have inherent educational resources and assets that teachers can use to improve learning experiences for students motivates community-based learning as well. Community service and academic study are combined in a teaching and learning strategy to enhance instruction, promote civic virtue, and strengthen communities which intern would lead to long last peace and development of South Sudan as a country.

  • Thinking and learning-to-learn

In this, Children are urged to develop into more independent and cooperative learners who take ownership of their education and recognize that a curriculum based on knowledge is not sufficient to ensure success. Thinking is the foundation of learning in this situation, which means that thinking techniques and skills are explicitly taught before being applied to gain a deeper understanding of the curriculum.

To help each child become more aware of their learning, a set of thinking tools such as thinking bubble diagrams, the 6 Cs, rewriting, thinking groups constant self-check by the pupils are to be developed in the following ways;

  •  The thinking bubble diagrams

These are a set of visual tools to teach the universal teaching process. They offer a common language for visual thinking and are applied to the explicit instruction of cognitive abilities as shown below;

The thinking bubble diagrams_©https://www.jica.go.jp/jica-ri/IFIC_and_JBICI-Studies/english/publications/reports/study/topical/sub_sahara/keynote_1.html
  • The 6Cs

The 6 Cs thinking model focuses on the 6 enquires (Critical thinking, Confidence, Community Service, Collaboration, and Caring for others). The idea is to have the pupils understand that their opinions and that of anyone they interact with are valid. This intern teaches the kids to ask questions which is a key learning component of basic education.

  • cultural competence, interaction, and expression

A person’s capacity to interact, collaborate, and forge enduring bonds with individuals from different cultural backgrounds is referred to as cultural competence. The values, traditions, and conduct of individuals belonging to various groups can be considered cultural backgrounds. Developing social skills and behaviors around diversity as well as the capacity to speak up for others are all part of the lifelong process of gaining cultural competence. It goes beyond tolerance, which suggests that one is only prepared to ignore differences. Instead, it entails acknowledging and respecting diversity through our words and deeds in all situations.

  • Multiliteracy

The phrase “multiliteracy” refers to two important facets of modern language use.

First, different cultural, social, or domain-specific contexts have different ways of making meaning. These variations are playing a bigger role in our communication environment. Therefore, concentrating solely on the rules of the national language’s standard forms is no longer sufficient for literacy instruction. Instead, the business of communicating and representing meaning today calls for learners to be able to distinguish differences in meaning patterns from one context to another. These distinctions are the result of a wide range of variables, including culture, gender, life experience, subject matter, and social or academic domain. Every meaning exchange involves cross-cultural communication to some extent.

The second facet of language use in modern society is partly a result of the traits of the newest information and communication media. To convey meaning, written-linguistic modes of meaning interact with oral, visual, aural, gestural, tactile, and spatial patterns of meaning in increasingly multimodal ways. This means that we need to broaden the scope of literacy pedagogy so that it does not excessively privilege alphabetical representations and instead introduces multimodal representations, particularly those types of digital media, into the classroom. Due to these clear connections with the modern communications milieu, literacy pedagogy is made all the more interesting. It also offers a strong foundation for a synesthesia pedagogy, or mode switching, approach.

  • ICT competence
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ICT CompHTTPS data© httpsdorg datacef.orgdata-for-actioncovid-19-and-education-the-digital-gender-divide-among-adolescents-in-sub-saharan-africa

We all live in a world that is heavily reliant on technology and media, which has several characteristics.

  • extensive access to knowledge;
  • Rapid advancements in technology tools; and.
  • Unprecedented capacity for group interaction and individual contribution.
  • Citizens and employees need to be able to demonstrate a variety of functional and critical thinking skills related to information, media, and technology to be effective.
  • Working life competence and entrepreneurship and participation, involvement, and building a sustainable future

The days of focusing solely on textbooks are long gone, and nowadays, you can find students working in groups, making decisions, planning, and creating in hallways, under stairwells, or outside. The goal of education has always been to prepare students for life outside the classroom. While the academic side is crucial, schools have historically placed more emphasis on student numbers than on their ability to collaborate and socialize. The aim is to move in the direction of lifelong learning, also known as the 7 Transversal Competencies, which is crucial for all students’ future success.

References:

Ditchley: How do architecture and society interrelate Available at: https://www.ditchley.com/past-events/past-programme/2000-2009/2009/architecture [Accessed date: 04 September 2022].

UNISA: What does decolonize education look like in Africa Available at: https://www.unisa.ac.za/sites/corporate/default/News-&-Media/Articles/What-does-decolonised-education-look-like-in-Africa [Accessed date: 12 June 2022].

Oaklands Junior: Thinking Curriculum- Learning to Think and Thinking to Learn Available at: https://oaklandsjunior-school.org.uk/thinking-curriculum-learning-to-think-and-thinking-to-learn/ [Accessed date: 25 August 2022].

JICA Research Institute: Basic education in Africa Available at: https://www.jica.go.jp/jica-ri/IFIC_and_JBICI-Studies/english/publications/reports/study/topical/sub_sahara/keynote_1.html [Accessed date: 20 July 2022].

ProQuest: Decolonizing African Education System as a Panacea for Africa’s Educational Advancement in the 21st Century Available at: https://www.proquest.com/openview/23164b4f064ee34b4ec1f2e987db6d89/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=2044838 [Accessed date: 02 August 2022].

Open Edition Journals: Decolonizing the Foundation of Tropical Architecture Available at: https://journals.openedition.org/abe/9215 [Accessed date: 15 July 2022].

Beyond Intractability: The First National South Sudan Education Curriculum Available at: https://www.beyondintractability.org/casestudy/carsillo-south-sudan [Accessed date: 03 July 2022].

Common Edge: What Architectural Education Does to would-be Architects Available at: https://commonedge.org/what-architectural-education-does-to-would-be-architects/ [Accessed date: 20 June 2022].

Architectural Digest Pro: Why Architecture Education needs to embrace Evidence-based design now Available at: https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/architecture-education-needs-to-embrace-evidence-based-design-now [Accessed date: 08 June 2022].

Author

Chan Simon is a fresh architecture school graduate from the University of Juba with a passion for evening the playing field. He is currently a design studio teaching assistant in the architecture department at the School of Architecture, Land Management, Urban and Regional Planning (University of Juba).

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