Greetings to you all.
The concept of a Learning Organisation emerged as a result of the
extraordinary observation by De Geus and his team that people who learn
together in an organisation promotes its longevity.
It is important to understand that "learning together" implies at least
that each individual should be a learner. This is reflected by Senge in
the discipline Personal Mastery (PM). However, PM alone does not transform
an Ordinary Organisation (OO) into a LO. Senge found it necessary to
articulate four other disciplines (Team Learning, Shared Vision, Mental
Models and Systems Thinking) to show how a LO differ from an OO.
To understand where we want to go with our organisations, we will
sometimes have to contemplate where we do not want to go with them. For
example, what will happen to any organisation if Personal Mastery (PM) is
thrown out of the window for some or other reason? You would probably
respond with "You are crazy to even suggest it since PM is one of the keys
Well, we need not to experiment to see what becomes of any organisation
when it scraps PM. There are enough foolish people on earth who would just
do that for some or other reason important to them. We merely have to seek
such irresponsible behaviour and observe what happens as a consequence of
In my recent contribution in two parts "Freedom, peace and the LO" I
focussed on procuring freedom and peace in general by enriching our
Systems Thinking with concepts such as entropy production, free energy and
the 7Es (seven essentialities of creativity). I intend to discuss in
future specific positive examples taken from the history of humankind.
I do not want to flood you with the many negative examples available
because it might drive you into despair and depression. It is much easier
to show how a deliberate impairing of a 7E impeded peace and freedom
seriously. But I have to lift out one such an example because it is
happening now and requires urgent attention. I pray that you and I will
not become engulfed by the negativity of it.
One of the tragedies of this world is the colonisation of Southern Africa
through which the freedom and peace of many of its peoples became lost. It
is something which happened in the past (nineteenth century) and hence it
cannot be wished away. It happened because Western nations acted
irresponsibly. The worst which now can happen, is trying to correct it in
an irresponsible manner. It would be adding insult to injury -- or out of
the frying fat into the consuming fire itself.
The Banthu peoples of Southern Africa had an ingenious system of education
before colonisation. This system differed completely from the general
European system, so much so that the colonists did not recognised it as a
system of education at all. The Banthu system involved the Community of
Practice in ever increasing wholes: the family, the village, the tribe and
the nation. Such a system was necessary because they did not have writing,
nor did they built cities or even towns. The biggest "town" was the kraal
of a king, consisting of several dozen of huts.
[One of the eye openers to me is the old book (1936) by Eileen Jensen
Krige "The Social System of the Zulus".]
The colonists displaced (without even being aware to it) the Banthu system
of education with their own European system of education. They build
schools and took children out of their communities to be taught between
four walls. The Banthu people allowed it, feeling themselves very inferior
to what was forced upon them. It happened gradually up to WWII, mostly in
the towns, but also some rural areas. Then with the cry of Uhuru these
colonies became independent.
The history of South Africa is different to the rest of Southern Africa.
The colonisation took place much earlier in the seventeenth century. It
began on a much smaller scale and the expansion was much slower.
Descendants of European colonists, many as far back as the tenth
generation, considered South Africa as their home -- their birth place,
their work place and their death place. They organised themselves around
small towns in a typical European fashion.
With the discovery of diamonds, gold and other minerals, several cities
sprung up. In many rural regions the Banthu people were left alone to do
as they liked. However, they began to copy what many of them experienced
in the towns and cities. Among other things, they displaced their system
of education based on CoP with schools between four walls. Then after WWII
apartheid came with its duplication of every government agency, one for
white European descendants and another for black African descendants.
Perhaps the worst duplication was the formal Banthu Education system.
What few people in our country noticed, both Europeans and Banthus, was
that the respect for Personal Mastery (PM) gradually diminished. My dear
wife and I belong to a generation in which we had more than one teacher at
school warning us "Your skin colour, economy, politics, culture (with
Europe as the cradle) and even religion will not save you -- your future
in Africa will depend on your PM." We as well as friends of our age often
talk about how our dear teachers in the face of immense ostracisation got
this message through to us. Their message was in conflict to the treasure
maps (based on skin colour, economy, politics, culture or religion) which
most leaders were selling. Leaders were selling these treasure maps as
part of their strategy to make apartheid acceptable on all walks of life.
We also remember how our parents and others of the same age as them often
told us to listen to our teachers because they know what is best. We were
too young those days to notice this curious advice. Why curious? They
seldom told us to listen to our leaders! Today I understand why. They were
all born soon before or soon after the anhillating British-Boer War (BBW).
They were born to experience poverty and the loss of freedom and peace.
They had to overcome it all. And they did so through their Personal
Mastery, not apartheid! They made the grave error that apartheid would
secure what they had to gain by Personal Mastery
I have also had dialogues with hundreds of Banthu people, many belonging
to the same age as me. They got the same message as us -- PM is the key to
the future. My father and mother worked very hard to give me a university
training. These Banthu people had to make even greater sacrifices to give
their own children a worthwhile education, at least up to secondary school
level. Many of their children are now the new leaders of South Africa,
trying to keep it from going up into flames.
But somehow a devastating advice crept into apartheid South Africa: Some
things like political and religious freedom are more important to children
than education (Personal Mastery). If there ever is a hell with the devil
as master of it, this advice is spewed directly from hell and its master.
It is the great lie which killed more people than all other possible lies
together. Some of the so called freedom fighters began to use children in
their struggle against white European domination. Their call was "Forget
about education and rather fight for freedom." Thus they took children
from schools and instructed them how to destabilise society and even kill
people. Their strategy was clever -- anyone fighting against a child must
be immoral. So the whites were immoral. Then freedom came.
Meanwhile these children have grown up self, trying to make a living for
themselves. They know only one thing -- destroy the lives of others so as
to live self. We have hundreds of thousands of them here in South Africa.
Although having obtained their freedom without education, they now loot
rather than learn. Their behaviour perplex and worry concerned black and
white people alike. They have become, as the Greek word in the New
Testament says, the "terrion". Telling them that Personal Mastery will
afford them a better life is completely meaningless to them. They have
been robbed from their education as children and now they can respond with
only one thing as adults by robbing self whatever they want.
How I wish I can stress upon you all that every child in this world needs
to be educated. By this I do not mean putting them between four walls
called a school where either rote learning or else nothing constructive
happens. By this I do not mean a place where the teacher is too afraid to
question the uneducated behaviour of the pupils. I mean an education in
which every child masters personally the values common to all human
civilisations. I mean an education by which the child develops a deep
respect for the humane way of living. I mean an education by which the
child learns that as a grown up his/her most important task would be to
ensure the education of the next generation of children. I mean an
education which respect all children.
Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia) is one of the neighbours to the
immediate north of South Africa. It is a great country to live in. Unlike
South African, Namibia and Botswana, it does not have vast expansions of
arid or even desert regions. Plant anywhere in it pumpkins or maize and a
crop will be ensured. Like in South Africa, the white minority ruled over
Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia). Like in South Africa the black people
had to fight for their freedom. Like in South Africa children have been
robbed from their education to be used as freedom fighters. Like in South
Africa they have become adults who know only one thing -- to live as
Many whites left Zimbabwe after it independence. The most serious
consequence was the collapse of Zimbabwe's education and not its economy.
At present only two out of each thousand Zimbabweans are whites. They own
about twenty five percent of all land and about sixty percent of all
industries. They make a success of their farming and industries because of
the very education which they had. For each white person hundreds of black
persons depend on this success. They all work together sharing in the
success of the educated managers.
However, for each white person dozens of freedom fighters, deprived from
education when they were children, roam the country and loot whatever they
can. A few years ago they began to settle upon some farms owned by whites.
They claim that it was the land of blacks before the whites took it from
them. It takes them about a year to loot such a farm to such an extend
that it becomes a wasteland upon which nothing is produced. Hundreds of
black workers on that farm are thrown into poverty too. The freedom
fighters then move to settle on some of the remaining successful farms,
owned and managed by educated whites. As poverty increases, this looting
is turning into a frenzy. It is like cancer spreading through the whole
body, eating up normal tissue. Consequently Zimbabwe is now facing a total
collapse in all walks of life.
What can we do? Firstly, write to your representative in congress or
parliament. Tell them to lay immediately full pressure on the Zimbabwean
government to stop the looting of productive farms and industries. Tell
them to seek other pressure than sanctions. It would merely be like taking
food away from a person already in the grip of cancer -- it would only
Secondly, do whatever is possible in your power so that every child on
this planet can have an education, learning how to respect humane values
and contribute constructively to civilisation. Learn from what is
happening in Southern Africa from the Congo, Rwanda and other countries in
the north to South Africa in the south what become of children robbed from
their Personal Mastery. Children need more than to be put between four
walls with a teacher to be hopefully trained into skilled workers. They
need to be loved in such a manner that when they become adults they will
also love children unconditionally.
Thirdly, leaders from all over Africa visit rich countries trying to
convince them to invest financially in Africa and placing a moratorium on
the astronomical debts of their countries. They are also organising
themselves into what will become the formidable African Union following
its MAP (Millennium African Plan). Some leaders are now even beginning to
demand money for the reparation of wrongs in the past such as slavery and
exporting cheap raw material while importing expensive goods. Some of the
things which I hear are hair raising stuff. However, I personally believe
that these leaders try to treat the symptoms rather than rectify the
cause. The principal cause of Africa's demise is the collapse of
education. From this follow other collapses like health, economies and
Please try to convince these leaders that the restoration of Africa will
have to begin with the education of its peoples. Every child needs to be
educated. Every adult who did not had an education as a child also needs
education. This education will cost far more than what Africa can provide
self in money and teachers. Africa needs about eight million teachers
which it does not have. Convince your leaders that your countries will
train this eight million people from Africa. Convince your leaders to make
maximum use of the few remaining educational institutions in Africa like
the universities in South Africa.
I repeat once again that Arie de Geus made the extraordinary observation
that when all the members of an organisation learn together the longevity
of that organisation is promoted. Southern Africa involves geographically
some hundred million of people of which millions do not learn any more
together with the rest of humankind. The consequences are catastrophic as
I have indicated. Now it is Zimbabwe and next it may be South Africa. It
is up to the rest of the world to help these millions to restore their
Personal Mastery. Let us learn together how to do it. The longevity of
humankind itself depends on it.
The cancer destroying Southern Africa will spread to the rest of the world
should we not take drastic action against it. Please do not reckon that
your countries are immune to it since your countries are part of the globe
as the one body of us all. We cannot fiddle with wholeness as we like or
dislike. South Africa did it with apartheid (fragmentation) and paid a
high price. The path of evolution follows increasing wholeness, not
apartheid. Southern Africa is not apart from the rest of the world. Please
reach out to Southern Africa.
Please, let us put an end to robbing children from their learning. Any
learning without wholeness is useless, except to produce cheap slaves who
think they are free.
With care and best wishes
At de Lange <email@example.com> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa
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