Outline. Introduction Conceptual issues Theoretical Framework African Perspectives and the construction of Resilience Resilience Strategies in Education Systems Some Empirical data on the development of Resilience Lessons drawn Conclusions and recommendations . Introduction.
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Masten (2000) points out that a vital quality of resilient communities is
that they foster the development of their children into competent
adults and productive citizens (Masten, 2000).
But the context of development varies because of differences in
norms, beliefs and values specific to the culture.
Since there exists interaction between biological and cultural
factors, this presupposes both a universal and context
specific view of the development of resilience skills.
This paper focuses on African indigenous
approaches to developing resilience in children to find
out the extent to which these can impact formal education practices.
Children in Africa grow up in difficult situations that are
characterized by poverty, war and violence, dysfunctional
families and different forms of natural disasters.
But formal education in Africa is influenced by inherited tripartite
values from western education, Christianity and influences from the
African education focuses on developing children’s generative
capacity through its humanitarian values and resilient skills.
It addresses relational norms and obligations exemplified in practices
of exchange and shared values in order to inculcate a sense of collective
The problem facing current educational practices is the much focus on
western systems to the exclusion of other knowledge systems and
thought processes that can contribute to the development of humanitarian
values in resilience systems.
Humanitarianism education is an attempt to teach various social topics that should
Provide children with sound knowledge on human relations and skills.
Humanitarianism in resilient systems in education addresses sustainable education.
The aforementioned, echoes the position of the Dakar World Conference in 2000 that
emphasizes the rights of children in emergencies. It also stresses that education
programmes should promote mutual understanding of peace and tolerance.
Today in most school systems for example in Cameroon, ministries of education are
expanding the curriculum by enforcing environmental education, civic and citizenship
education and peace and nation building at all levels. It is taught as an independent
discipline or mainstreamed across the curriculum in some cases.
In indigenous African Education, humanitarian education is person-centered and
emphasizes the teaching of spiritual and human values such as respect, tolerance,
solidarity, feeling and support for others, sense of responsibility and other skills.
Genero (1998) views resilience as a relational concept rather than as an individual
characteristic whereas Walsh (1998) suggests that being resilient includes more than
merely surviving and being a victim for life.
Resilience is thus a dynamic and multidimensional construct that incorporates the
bidirectional interaction between individuals and their environments within the family,
peer, school and community and society. Resilience systems.
Resilience systems in African context would be those structures at home, the
community, school and society at large that ensure that children have access to
Livelihood opportunities for quality development and wellbeing. The end product is a
focus on the development of positive mental health, self-image and reduced access to
Resilience theory is associated with a reduction in emphasis on
pathology and an increase in emphasis on strengths (Rak & Patterson,
1996). This permit a shift from vulnerability/deficit models hypothesis
when faced with adversity.
If resilience is developmental whereby children continuously acquire the habit of using
both internal and external resources to ensure positive adaptation even in crisis
situations then there is need to see the explanative theoretical framework from an
Processes employed can be explained from cognitive framework (Ionescu, 2006), the
ecosystem approach (Bronfenbrenner, 1978), psychosocial approach (Erikson, 1968)
and Bowlby’s theory of attachment (1977) which provides a strong foundation for
resilience. Such wide perspective in the use of explanative theories should pose
problem for research.
Africentric education has as one of its tenets, the
decolonizing of the African mind in order to overthrow
the authority of alien traditions over the African (Chinweizu,
1987). This is not rejecting foreign tradition but it is a denial of
its authoritative control in the African culture.
Africentric education equips African children with self
knowledge with the purpose of instilling in them a sense of
agency for the purpose of personal development, community
development and nation building (Shockley, 2007).
In other words, children are taught about their responsibility to
forge their development and that of their community.
Despite the lack of support in the notions of Africentric systems
of education, the concept of African agency and resiliency
remains critically important for African children.
In the context of African-centered literature, a "sense of agency“
or resilience is understood as a people's or person’s ability,
empowerment, and entitlement to control and mandate the
arenas of life around them (Asante, 1988, 1990;Maluccio, 2002).
According to Asante (1980), western educational systems do not inspire
a sense of resilience and agency in African children. Only Africentric
schools have attempted to imbue a sense of agency in African children
(Akoto, 1992). Africentric education systems offer a holistic approach
for bringing about a sense of agency and resilience for African
children by using education as one vehicle for such change.
Africentric education must be understood not simply as a tool for
improving educational conditions, but as a tool for a holistic change in
the local community. Resilient socialization networks in child
upbringing in Africa nurture a sense of responsibility for self and
others and their functioning.
Since 1972, education reforms have focused on relevance and quality through various reforms in Cameroon:
The participatory approach uses the
techniques of hands-on, apprenticeship and
collaboration in group and individual work.
Through these engagements, children gain skills
and ability to manage and cope.
Other nongovernmental and individual structures provide support to
vulnerable children. These institutions use community-based and grass roots
protective strategies to provide social support to children who were victims of
one form of natural disaster or another for example . “Serve the Orphans
Foundation "is an example. Effective support mechanisms include visits from
Community leaders, and training for self reliant skills.
Community-based approaches help children cope with the feeling of being
stigmatized, dropping out from school and other emotional traumas that
increase their psychological burden on the growing up process. The main
strategy to achieve this is through individual competency skill building.
Resilience Strategies in other African Education Systems adopted the following
strategies (Bird 2009) to strengthened children’s learning and resilience:
Uganda Education Sector Strategic Plan for example,(ESSP, 2004-20015) has put in
place structures to address the conflict in the North of the country through its
approach which aims to support and guide quality education for national integration,
individual and national development by instituting
In Sierra Leone, UNICEF and Save the children sector plan (2007-20015) address
peace building strategy. In Kenya, context based indicators are being identified that
will be integrated into the education management Information System (EMIS) for
disaster preparedness and emergency response.
Another example comes from the new Afghan National Education
StrategicPlan (2010-2015), focusing more on references to school protection,
community participation and human rights, suggesting that peace messages
should be mainstreamed both in the national curriculum and in teacher training. The
“cross cutting issues are peace education, human rights, elimination of violation of
children and women’s rights, environmental protection, and HIV. These will be
addressed in the textbooks” (Afghan National Education Strategic Plan, p.5).
Incorporating the participation of the local elders and community leaders is important
for success. Tchad is emulating this model.
Christie and Potterton (1997) mentioned the characteristics of resilience schools in
South African society as a sense of responsibility, leadership and management style,
flexibility, commitment to teaching and learning, improving programme, safety and
organisation, authority and discipline, culture concerns, governance and community
relationship and parental involvement.
Research findings are highly congruent with a growing world literature
on what makes a difference in the lives of children whose development is
threatened by adversity (Cowen, 2000; Glantz & Johnson, 1999; Luthar,
Cicchetti and Becker, 2000; Masten, 1994; Masten & Coatsworth, 1998).
Some of the most frequently reported "protective factors" in the literature;
provide clues about the processes that lead to resilience. Protective systems for
human development having implications in resilience studies are attachment
systems, self regulation systems and spirituality among others.
Findings from resilience research suggest that the greatest threats to children
are those adversities that undermine the basic human protective systems for
development. Programmes and policies that support effective parenting and the
availability of competent adults in the lives of children are crucial.
Literature is replete with research findings on what can be
learnt from cultural practices to enhance the development
resilience in formal education.
Even in Latino culture and Indian First Nation culture in the US
(Stutman, Baruch, Grotberg & Rathore, 2002:38) the rich values and
experiences provide good examples for the development of resilience. Heavy
Runner and Morris (1997) comment on these values and their relationship to
the development of resilience in children through oral tradition such as for
Examples, songs and storytelling. Listening with patience and respect
creates opportunities for developing resilience. The traditional Indian
family like most African family traditions are rich with profound values and
Grotberg (1992) in his study of Sudanese and
Norwagian child-rearing practices also found
variations in parental attitudes towards resolving
children’s problems with peers.
The use of song, music and dance has a strong tradition in
South Africa as a vital pedagogic mechanism (Sæther
2002),. They are valuable indigenous pedagogical tools
for learning in school and about cultural traditions.
Lessons from the review illustrated that resilience varies as a
function of the culture. Cultural strategies for building
resilience are many and rich.
The standards by which parents, teachers, and community
members judge how well a child is developing, though may
vary across cultures, are based on developmental tasks. These
tasks are the broad expectations parents and the societies
have for children of different ages.
More research is required for better understanding of
vulnerable children’s resilience. A study of the cognitive
functioning of vulnerable children and the impact the
development of resilience skills would provide added
knowledge on directions for interventions.
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