Learning locally relevant skills and knowledge is the major challenge to be addressed for achieving Africa’s promised demographic dividend. To solve the problem, Kabakoo is building a network of inclusive spaces dedicated to creative learning.
Kabakoo – The House of Wondering is innovating learning for the Africas. Its approach, which has already been proven after less than a year of implementation, is based on a virtuous spiral unfolding in two stages:
- the awakening of curiosity by wondering and,
- the transformation of this curiosity into creativity.
This process from wondering to creative learning is set up in order to create a self-generative loop that lifts learners of all ages into a virtuous spiral. Wondering releases creative thinking and action which themselves lead to more curiosity and wondering.
The entire method is founded on four pillars:
- collaborative project-based learning,
- aesthetic sensibility,
- symbiosis between Nature and Human,
- and inclusiveness.
Locally grounded collaborative projects
At Kabakoo, collaborative project-based experiences rooted in the realities of learners are the cornerstone of the learning process. Learners choose the projects they want to work on. This experiential and collaborative approach allows to make good use of everyone’s passion and thus improves not only the project outcomes but also the individual learning objectives. This alignment of learning experiences with the respective passions is supplemented by the works of facilitators, who are more guides than teachers.
The socio-cultural anchoring of the collaborative projects leads the participants to regularly go outside the walls of Kabakoo. This enables the learners to deal with the different faultlines on the ground such as languages barriers and territorial segregation, and depending on the projects, to accumulate endogenous knowledge gathered on the ground.
Since Kabakoo’s launch ten months ago, various projects have already been completed or are currently in progress. An example is the project “Breathe, Africa” which resulted in the first citizen platform to measure ambient air quality in West Africa, art workshops, several recycling projects, and the transformation of organic waste into biogas.
A reflection on every day’s aesthetics
Beauty, a high sense of aesthetics, and artistic expression are elements that punctuate the everyday life in most African regions. At Kabakoo, learners are encouraged to think about the aesthetics that surround them. Urban disorder, garbage dumps, plastic waste and other visual, olfactory, and auditory violences characterize African cities. However, the importance of rituals, the good gesture, the good behaviour, the right word, the right melody on the right occasion and in all social activities attest this central place of art and the sense of aesthetic.
In addition, there are many objects used daily in various African regions whose artistic dimension justifies an exhibition in museums elsewhere.
To launch the reflection on the aesthetics, the learners work collaboratively on artistic projects. A project group, for instance, was accompanied by a local painter for a workshop on ancient ideographs used in the Bamanan culture since the Great Mali empire (from 13th century). They then decorated the walls of Kabakoo using stencils, a painting technique used in the Bamanan region to decorate houses and textiles, like the famous bogolanfini, since several centuries.
The learners thus have made a collective reflection on the meaning of the beautiful, finalized a project by collaboratively decorating the walls, while individually learning endogenous knowledge such as the meaning of the different ideograms, allowing them to better understand their sociocultural environment.
The symbiosis between Nature and Human
The learner at Kabakoo is nudged to recognize the symbiosis between Nature and the Human, in order to put into perspective the relation of interdependence between humans and the environment. The symbiosis between Nature and the Human is, moreover, at the heart of the African Weltanschauung. This can be illustrated by “Souffles”, Birago Diop’s poem which suggests we should listen more often to things than beings. Because the tree, the wind, the water, the rock all have meanings for us. The symbiosis is also lived through the sustainable architecture of Kabakoo which is a construction in local materials adapted to its environment. This focus increases the environmental awareness of the learners who are now working on projects such as cooking energy sources that are less harmful to the environment, the improvement of ambient air quality, or the plastic recycling.
Learning through collaborative project work, reflection on aesthetics and the symbiosis between Nature and Humans are all reflected in Kabakoo’s radically inclusive approach. Inclusiveness is found in both the learners community and the Kabakoo model. The workshops are open to everyone, regardless of the level of prior study or any other discriminating factor; the only prerequisite is the interest of the learner. Project groups are thus made up of various profiles. In the group working on a 3D printing project as part of the collaboration with the Maryland Institute College of Art, some members are students, some did not finish secondary school, and some others are unemployed.
Since May 2018, Kabakoo has been presented and discussed by different audiences at the MIT Media Lab or in Shenzhen at the GOSH Open Science Forum. The House of Wondering has been featured in the African Union’s list of the most innovative educational projects of the continent. To go further, the team around Kabakoo’s founder, Dr. Yanick Kemayou, is currently strengthening its model to launch an expansion in other sites on the continent to achieve a real revolution of creative learning through wondering.