by Catherine Enana, Nairobi, Kenya, 1 September 2017
“Prejudice is a learned trait. You’re not born prejudiced; you’re taught it” — Charles R. Swindoll
The Day of Learning is part of Age of Wonderland’s 100 Days of Learning, a global event that leverages on building networks from 100 different locations around the globe so that people can speak about what matters to them as citizens of the world, share how they feel they can create a positive change, teach and learn from each other.
The Day of Learning (DoL) in Nairobi was titled “The Ripple Effect”. The aim of Age of Wonderland’s 100 Days of Learning, was to observe behaviour, offer feedback, allow interaction, share knowledge and exchange valuable experiences that are essential to us, and could have the same effect on others through social learning.
Fifteen participants were invited, thirteen turned up. There were three male fine artists based at the Godown Art Centre, five social activists; three ladies and two men from Mukuru Kwa Njenga, an informal settlement (slum), one film maker/public transport tout in Kasarani area of Nairobi, one dancer from the Bomas of Kenya, one housekeeper and one high school student from Nairobi West area. In addition we had a psychology/counselling student to observe the exercise. She contributed to writing the blog.
THE RIPPLE EFFECT
When people are informed they do the right thing. It is when they are not informed that they become hostages to prejudice.
The Ripple Effect’s key task was to explore the participants’ behavior based on seating arrangements; the chairs were arranged in groups of fours, threes, twos and ones. It was observed that five participants who had the privilege of interacting with each other outside the setting converged around a group of four chairs with the spill over sitting on a single chair nearby. Three participants chose to sit on the chairs arranged in ones. Two participants sat in the chairs arranged in twos, one participant in the chairs arranged in threes. The last two participants joined in the seats grouped in twos and threes. The facilitator explored the reasons for their choice of where to sit. They cited comfort, vantage point, familiarity, security in case of emergency and privacy as their considerations.
The participants were also asked to share their perceptions on why they think the other participants choose to sit where they had sat. Their feedback ranged from personality types, familiarity with each other, comfort zones, gender, style of learning and level of concentration. Some participants agreed with the perception others had of them, while others were surprised by the other participants’ impressions of them.
The Participants were asked to come up with a list of three things that were unique to them within thirty seconds; both at the individual level (ones) and group levels (the twos, threes and fours). They were then asked to share them with the whole group.
Based on this exchange, the DoL teacher then gave the whole group the freedom to change their seats and move to another group or to leave or join a group. Apart from one participant, the rest chose to remain in their initial position. There was a debrief around that choice of behaviour as well. Comfort was cited as the main reason why the majority chose to remain in their initial seats and boldness and curiosity as her motivation for moving. They clarified that change was hard and uncomfortable, and therefore it was easier to stick with the known. Participants who were more than one in a group cited the perceived benefits to be gained in their current group as the key reason why they stuck to their groups. The ones cited their personalities as the key consideration.
It was from the two group interactions above, and the introductory remarks that different prejudices that were held within the learning setting were unleashed. There was prejudice around first impressions, matatu/local public transport industry (one participant was a tout), temperamental differences (introverts versus extroverts), the gay community amongst others. The DoL teacher then introduced Prejudice as the theme of discussion, shared her own personal experience, then invited the participants to share their experiences of the same; as the victim or the perpetrator of prejudice.
Case Study: Mark related how as a tout people regard him as a drug addict or a thief. Any delays to hand back change could trigger abuse and negative reactions from passengers, however he would not react in order to deescalate and neutralise the situation.
“It’s painful when people speak ill of me because of my job but I let go of the provocation because reacting would only make matters worse,” Mark.
The discussion was engaging. As the participants shared their experiences as the victims of and perpetrators of Prejudice, there was a general rise in awareness, sensitivity and empathy as participants realised the extent to which their perception of others was distorted. There was a sense of agreement with the words of Charles R. Swindoll “Prejudice is a learned trait. You’re not born prejudiced; you’re taught it”. Therefore, there is need to be aware of the prejudices held, a choice made to unlearn them, and relearn new ways of relating with others.
Chairs, pens and paper.
The participants were then asked to write their own take away promise and to share the knowledge gained. The feedback was profound and concluded a successful day of learning, in Kenya at the Godown Art Centre. Some of the promises included;
- To make and not to break (relationships).
- To understand people before judging them.
- To keep learning more (about others).
- To listen without criticising.
Participants agreed to keep the following phrase as a conclusion of the exercise
I AM HUMAN. HE/SHE/THEY ARE HUMAN. DIFFERENT IS NORMAL.
Day of Learning video link: https://youtu.be/AxYkSYdNSck
DAY OF LEARNING PLANNING/EXECUTION: CATHERINE ENANE
ASSISTED BY: NEEMA BAGAMUHUNDA