learning skills

SOI LOCAN: Reaching Out to Malawi, Africa

Almost exactly a year ago, my husband and I were sitting in the living room of a dear friend, visiting with two recent acquaintances. One of our new friends, a lady from Kentucky, is the director of a mission in Malawi, Africa. The other new friend is a pastor and leader of the community, church, and school in this very remote village in Malawi. Over cool drinks, we shared our various experiences, work, and dreams as our Kentucky friend translated as needed into Chichewa for our new African friend.

Both were fascinated to know about SOI and the work I have done over the past 20+ years with children who were challenged in their learning. The visitors shared their concern over what they in Malawi had come to call “the third grade dropout.” Apparently, many students in their community progress to a third grade reading level, but then, year after year, are unable to move forward. Around the age of 18, they finally give up, unable to pursue higher learning.

They were perplexed. Why would children, so intelligent in so many ways, bog down and languish for years at the same reading level, unable to progress even after extensive tutoring?

Indeed, why? The question seemed familiar. Haven’t educators here in the U.S. asked similar questions about some of their struggling students? I assured them that using the Structure of Intellect (SOI) methods, we would be able to answer that question.

A few months later, in a conference call, Diane Hochstein relayed her experience with “the lost boys of Sudan” and outlined what she, Dr. Mary Meeker, Dr. Robert Meeker, and others have proven over the years.

High figural learners, most definitely like those learners of Malawi, require a figural (concrete) method to learn the process of reading. These students have plenty of intelligence to survive in their environment. In fact, they won’t have to deal with some of the sensory motor problems that tend to plague struggling American students. They are well-developed in those areas.

Their primary learning style is figural, a different group of learning abilities than those required to learn to read and write English, or even their native Chichewa. Obviously, the ability to read and write in a conventional symbolic (phonetic) or semantic (sight word) way is an essential skill they must acquire as they move into today’s modern world. However, only after the figural/conceptual bridge is crossed will they be able to more readily grasp the symbolic and semantic methods of conventional reading instruction familiar to most of us.

The SOI Systems staff in Oregon devised an Africa-friendly version of LOCAN that could be easily taught to teachers in the remote Malawi community by a team of U.S. educators who will be serving there for a month this summer. The SOI team creatively developed procedures for use in a very resource-limited setting.

This past May, Becky Robinson and I trained the team of educators in the theories and methods of LOCAN at our EducationPathways Learning Center in Lubbock, Texas, and by video conference to the rest of the team in Kentucky. They left for Malawi on June 16.

So, by a series of very interesting coincidences, the blessing of SOI has moved into a very remote part of the world. For now, we await the team’s return to the U.S. and anticipate hearing “the rest of the story.”

written by: Renee Anderson, SOI Systems Senior Program Consultant

Renee is the founder of EducationPathways in Lubbock, Texas. She has also opened a new center, Synap2it! Learning Center, in the Austin, Texas area.

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