The philosophy of Seliba Sa Boithuto

Seliba Sa Boithuto believes that learning is best achieved if people are responsible for their own learning, so that the learners decide themselves on what, when and how to study.

SSB also deems cooperation to be better than competition. Therefore, it encourages learners to study together (peer learning).

As long as SSB provides learning materials and tutors, who can support the learners when they need help, self-motivated learning will lead to empowering education. Thus the learners will be better prepared to face the unscheduled challenges, which will occur in life.

If SSB learners are responsible for their own studies, they should also be responsible for the Society, which helps them in this effort. Accordingly it must be a democratic organisation, where all members have a say in the running of the Society and have access to all financial records.

The philosophy of Seliba Sa Boithuto has been inspired by many sources, which all had a critical look at the existing schooling system. Two of these sources are quoted below: John Holt and Paulo Freire. Paulo Freire's ideas have also been elaborated by Anne Hope and Sally Timmel in the Community Workers Handbook.

Why does schooling not lead to learning?

 John Holt, 1964 says in his foreword to "Why Children Fail" on page 9:
 They (children) fail because they are afraid, bored and confused.

 They are afraid, above all else, of failing, of disappointing or displeasing the many anxious adults
  around them, whose limitless hopes and expectations for them hang over their heads like a cloud.

  They are bored because the things they are given and told to do at school are so trivial, so dull, and
  make such a limited and narrow demands on the wide spectrum of their intelligence, and talents.

  They are confused because most of the torrent of words that pours over them in school makes little
  or no sense It often flatly contradicts other things they, have been told, and hardly ever has any
  relation to what they really know - to the rough model of reality that they carry around in their

What are schools?

It seems the expectations of the society about the schooling are confused and so create a barrier to effective learning.

The schooling system as we know it now has the following characteristics:

  • Young people are gathered together in age groups.
  • They are expected to learn the same material to approximately the same level of competence during the same time.
  • The materials (syllabus) have been developed not even by their own teachers, but by external bodies (often far removed from the actual learning situations).
  • The final competence reached is checked not even by their own teachers, but by external bodies.

How did such a system come into existence?

This system was developed in the Western World in the 19th century at the same time that due to the industrial revolution the employers needed obedient, but skilled workers. Before the industrial revolution the more affluent members of the society could afford private education, while the workers learned their skills in the workplace through experience guided by their 'masters' (supported by the professional guilds).

Work during the industrial revolution became more complex and required skills such as numeracy and literacy. The workplaces grew larger and more impersonal, and the employers expected the state to do the training for them, before the children were ready to enter the job market. Many employers, therefore, contributed generously to the establishment of schools.

Compulsory schooling may have reduced the occurrence of child labour, but it also guaranteed a sufficiently large pool of skilled people to fill the factories.

Yet the employers not only wanted skilled workers, they also needed people who would fit into the workplace, which was (and often still is) very autocratic. Therefore, the schools also had to instill discipline, pupils should not query the authorities and obedience was a virtue. For example, at school insubordination is often considered a worse crime than not learning.

From Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paolo Freire

Education (Schooling) mirrors oppressive society as a whole:

    1. The teacher teaches and the students are taught,
    2. The teacher knows everything and the students know nothing.t
    3. The teacher thinks and the students are thought about.
    4. The teacher talks and the students listen - meekly.
    5. The teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined.
    6. The teacher chooses and enforces his choice the students comply.
    7. The teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the action of the teacher.
    8. The teachers chooses the programme content and the students (who were not consulted) adapt to it
    9. The teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his professional authority, which he sets in opposition to the freedom of the students,
    10. The teachers is the subject of the learning process, while the students are mere objects.

Adapted from: Community Workers' Handbook 1, by Anne Hope and Sally Timmel (page 8/9):


 a. no education is ever neutral
 Education is designed
 - either to maintain the existing situation, imposing on the people the values and
   culture of the dominant class (i.e. domesticating people, as one tames an animal to
   obey its master's will)
 - or to liberate people, helping them to become more critical, creative, free, active
   and responsible members of the society.

 b. relevance - issues of importance NOW to participants.
 People will act on the issues on which they have strong feelings. There is a
 close link between emotion and motivation to act.

 All education should start with identifying issues about Which the learner speaks
 with excitement, hope, fear anxiety or anger.

 c. problem-posing
 Learners should be recognized as thinking, creative people with the capacity for
 action. The aim of the animator is to help them identify the aspects of life they wish
 to change, to identify problems, find root cause of these problems and work out
 practical ways in which they can set about changing the situation.

 The whole of education and development is seen as a search for solutions to

 This can be contrasted with the old 'banking' approach to education based on
 transmission of information from teacher to pupil.


Banking Approach Problem-Posing Approach
Teacher is seen as possessing all essential knowledge Animators provide framework for thinking
Pupils are seen as "empty vessels" needing to be filled with knowledge Creative active participants consider a common problem and find solutions
Teachers talks Animator raises questions: why, how, who?
Pupils absorb passively Participants are active, describing, analyzing, suggesting, deciding and planning

Seliba Sa Boithuto attempts to further liberating and problem posing education as opposed to schooling. Therefore, the motto is:

Learners decide what, when and how to learn, and determine themselves when they have learned enough.
This can only occur in a democratic and participatory setting. 

This is reflected in the constitution of Seliba Sa Boithuto, in the SSB Pamphlet and in the guidelines for the tutors.

You can read a description of a teaching experience in Ghana by the initiator of SSB, which shows that it is possible to have pupils decide what to learn.

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