teaching, learning and living around the world
I know that it’s only Day 5 of studying and observing- so I’ve tried to focus on positives. But I want to spend this post expressing my serious concern with IICBs… which seem to be a very popular donation for the Tungane School.
In college, it was always irritating when I moved into a new apartment and found lots of random junk all over the house. Why do people leave their old junk? Why would I want this? And after sharing this frustration with several friends, a few of them said, “Sometimes when I move out, I don’t want to take certain things with me but I don’t want to throw them away either… so I figure that the next person who comes along might want it!” But ten times out of ten I’m sure the new person does not in fact want it and throws it away. Why doesn’t the new person want the old gum ball machine, or the Janet Jackson poster, or the purple captain’s chair? First- because they have no meaning to the new person. They’re irrelevant. Second- chances are the gum balls are stale, the poster is outdated and the chair is half broken. So there are two factors here: irrelevance and ineffectiveness.
So what are IICBs? They are Irrelevant and Ineffective Coloring Books. I know that I am not an early childhood specialist- my training was in secondary education. Therefore, I am not an expert in early childhood resources. Additionally, my friend Colleen advised me to “Be gentle with donors,” which I think is generally great advice. So this rant stems from my gut and is far from gentle.
Can someone please explain to me what a Swahili and French speaking student will learn from coloring in outlines of Western style houses? North American forests? Buildings Labeled Town Hall? With a whole book’s themes being “Autumn!” Not only are the pictures completely irrelevant, but what are they supposed to learn from coloring them in?!! Nothing. Nothing nothing nothing nothing. Zero. Why would we want to use these? All they do is waste time. And no, the kids do not need them to have a good time. And they don’t need your CANDY either!!!! They have plenty of games and shananigans of their own to spark smiles and laughter and have fun. They do not in fact need crappy outlines of John and Mary in Autumn playing hopscotch. Or lollipops.
I tried for a few minutes to justify it all by saying, maybe coloring is a good way to learn fine motor skills… but then again the children that these coloring books are FOR already KNOW how to hold a freakin PENCIL.
This is all equally as outrageous as someone from China visiting some inner city school in Detroit and giving them coloring books of culturally Chinese things, labeled in Chinese. The American teachers would say, “What the hell are we going to do with this?”
Maybe I’ll learn how to say “What the hell are we going to do with this?” in Swahili so I can EXPRESS myself to well-intentioned western donors without them understanding. Hmmf.
So, if you’ve ever considered donating coloring books to a school abroad, please take the time to consider- will this be relevant to their lives? will this be effective as a learning tool? And if either answer is no, please figure out a more sensible way to “help schools in Africa.” The coloring books just won’t do.