The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Alvin Toffler

A friend of mine shared this quote with me (as an encouragement) after I had a battle in the classroom yesterday morning. I had been co-teaching two lessons with our Ugandan team: the first was Language, followed by Behaviour Management. I went from a high of a joint rendition of Incy Wincy Spider with my colleague during a lesson on fine motor skills with our year 1 student teachers; down to rock bottom when discussing the recent case of the secondary student who died after being caned by his teacher in Mbale (from my last post). I used the newspaper article as a review discussion exercise and wanted our student teachers to reflect on this. Our students have had numerous lessons this year where they have learnt about Child Protection, what corporal punishment is and how it is illegal in Uganda. During our discussion one student said that the death could have been from ‘over-beating’. Over beating? Of course my next question was how many strokes is enough? The student’s response: ‘according to the government of Uganda, three strokes.’

What? Face palm!


Ok, we are all going to answer this question now, how many strokes is enough: I go around our students one-by-one: 3, 2, 3, 3, 2, 2, 3, 3, 2, 2, 0. Momentarily that lesson plan went out the window and I went on a rant. My co-teacher followed my lead and had her say after mine.

I told that student I would give him 100,000 Ugandan shillings if he could produce evidence for the three strokes being the maximum amount of strokes recommended by the government. He told me he would bring me the evidence next week.

It’s easy (in many ways) to teach student teachers how to teach reading and writing, mathematics, even skills in reading aloud and making resources. But teaching and re-teaching about behaviour management and positive discipline is an enormous challenge! Especially in a culture that believes strongly that ‘children’s ears are on their buttocks!’ 

Toffler has got me thinking and reflecting a lot about unlearning and relearning…



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