This is a blog about me and the things that make me laugh, smile, hurt or cry!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Educating Our Leaders

Another of my favourite TED talks is one delivered by Ghanaian Patrick Awuah at TED Global 2007 (or TED Africa). He entitled it, Educating leaders. This was the subject of our December 2010 Development Discussion Group (DDG). We chose this talk because DDG is all about how and what we can do differently to develop our country.

It was definitely one of the liveliest DDG meetings so far. It was hard to take notes and talk at the same time, but I have tried to summarise the main points and conclusions of our discussion as follows:

My highlight from this talk was one sentence that came from a student of Patrick Awuah's who felt his eyes had been opened. He wrote to Mr Awuah, "I am thinking now". These four powerful words have resonated with me since then.

Zambians are fond of complaining about how much our President, Rupiah Bwezani Banda travels, and yet, how about our own presence in our own homes. How much time do we spend with our families, our children, our households?

Elder idiots
The concept of respect must be redefined. This also leads to a phenomena where even if young people are given a new kind of education or training, such as in Patrick Awuah's Ashesi University, young people take on what the see around them. So, once you enter the workplace, you imbibe the surrounding environment, work culture, attitude, ethics etc. So, changing our education system is one thing, but it is not enough when the rest of the world remains the same.

The Elite 5%
In many of our African countries, there is a 5% of the elite who become our leaders. For you or I to have completed grade 12 and made it to University, we remain the exception to the rule. We are the privileged few, strategically positioned to change the Zambia that we live in.

Entitlement or Responsibility
Patrick Awuah asks why our young people have more of a sense of entitlement than a sense of responsibility. We could not come up with a definitive answer to this question, except to agree that this is a disease that permeates all aspects of our society. Be it i the home, in the church, in the school or in the work place.

Our poor work ethic in Africa
Ever wonder why many contractors prefer to get chinese workers. In Zambia, many workers on construction sites are Zimbabwean. This is not only because they are skilled and expereinced, but their work ethic is also much more professional and their output cost effective.

Problem solving vs Rote memorisation
Our schools in Zambia value rote memorisation over problem solving. When you go for a driving test, the examiner is not interested in whether or not you understand the highway code, he wants you to recite the ten rules of driving

How do you develop solutions to problems you have never encountered before?

  • Reward innovation -- Memorising formulas does not give us growth
  • Demonstrate leadership at the most basic level -- Impact happens at local government level. Most of our leaders want to aim for the Presidency. No one wants to stand for the municipal, district or city council except cadres. And yet, this is where the bulk of the government's work happens.
  • It's the smallest approach that will change things -- The bigger picture is not always the answer. We always want to follow someone in a herd but inter-personal interaction and one to one works, one person at a time. We shouldn't always look to numbers as equal to success.
  • Challenge what you know and think differently -- Our political leaders will not change. The enormity of the task is depressing. You leave university with zeal and get heart broken by reality and business as usual.

We always look to the glamorous, the big pictures. Many of us hesitate to take the first step to do or change something. Just Do It

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