The current education system in Africa has been heavily criticized for overemphasizing the traditional skills and falling short in nurturing creativity in our young learners.
Partly, our society is to blame for defining success as having a formal job with a monthly big pay cheque, housing allowance and insurance. While appreciation for the creative industry is growing, investment in nurturing creativity in our children remains minimal.
We are all born with the will and ability to create, produce and express our uniqueness in ways that connect us with the rest of the world. However, creativity is a muscle and like any muscle if not exercised, one will lose it.
The other killer of creativity is the overconsumption of media such as television and video games that reduce the child’s ability to create.
It is important to note that while some children’s gifts are open and out there for all to see, to others they are hidden and need to be nurtured. Therefore, it is incumbent upon parents, educators and those interested in nurturing the next generation to identify ways to work on this situation.
Foremost, it is important to expose children to new experiences, different environments, places, objects, sights and sounds to allow them explore and expand their horizons.
Learning from different experiences beyond the structured methodologies fosters creativity and dreaming big. Each time we travel to a new place with my children, the experiences spark off heated and animated debates about the differences and similarities with the previous places visited. They also identify areas that can be improved in our own environment.
As parents or educators, it is equally paramount to encourage hobbies and interest in a variety of areas such as music, art, dance, games and sports. Identification of one’s talents needs to be done early and encouraged.
We have to be careful not to impose our own view to accomplish our own unrealized dreams as parents. We have to allow the children to do what is interesting and fun for them.
Supporting children to develop their individuality might be hard for many parents, but it is okay to let children be different.
We need to stop being obsessed with children fitting in a certain pre-determined mold. Allowing children to be out of step with the norms of their peer group, to be unique, to see the world through their lens spurs creativity.
Parents also have to provide raw materials and tools to help children make their own fun. It is good, for example, to provide all kinds of art supplies such as crayons, play dough, construction paper and empty boxes.
I often provide my children with empty boxes that keep them engaged for many hours building all sorts of imaginative constructs. It makes me believe there is no need to buy every new toy that appears on the market. We need to keep it as simple as possible to allow the children exercise their imagination.
All said, the 21st century child will require the traditional skills to flourish in the future. Our role as parents is clearly cut out if we are keen to create an environment where the children can unleash their potential and harness their God-given gifts.
We can learn from Albert Einstein, when he said: “I have no special gift, I am only passionately curious.”