What is Smart ?

“WHAT IS SMART?”

Paola Gianturco

October 23, 2015

Paola

Paola Gianturco, PFA Executive Board Member

Smart is an ambiguous (imprecise) word.

If you get lemon juice in a cut, “it smarts.” If you wear cool clothes, you “look smart.” If you walk fast, you’re “keeping a smart pace.” If your eyes sting, you say, “My eyes smart.” If you are sassy, you’re a “smart ass.” If you get great grades, you’re considered “smart.”

What I like about the “WHAT IS SMART” project, is that we can define what we mean by the word “smart.”

Here’s what I think “smart” means:

Smart is a condition.

Smart people are open-minded, interested, attentive, curious, and persistent enough to learn about the world… and apply what they learn — perhaps to solve problems, build more knowledge or invent something new.

I think babies are born smart. They have to be, to learn to do complicated skills such as walking and talking! Babies are the ultimate explorers of the world. Most of what people EVER learn is learned when they are very young.

Do you think only people are smart?

guide_puppy

I think guide dogs-for-the-blind are smart. Do you?

Remember the conversation we had together, that sparked the “What is Smart?” project?

I claimed that “smart people can be born anywhere: in Tiburon or in the Nairobi slums.”

Lucia talked about how important a good school is to being smart. I agree…

But I think there are two kinds of education: informal learning and formal learning.

Informal Learning

Everybody in the world learns informally: by observing, by participating, and by trial and error.

Everybody learns by using their five senses, by thinking and imagining, by asking questions, by comparing and contrasting, by imitating their family and friends.

africa-tv

If people have electricity, they may learn from television…

(I interviewed people who learned to speak English from TV!)

If people have electricity, they may learn from television (I have interviewed people in other countries who learned to speak English from TV!)

My point is: you don’t have to go to school to be smart.

My point is: you don’t have to go to school to be smart.

tv-computer

Formal Learning

In the United States, public school tuition is free through High School.

But that’s not true everywhere. In other countries, some people– not all –have an opportunity to attend school, and consider it a great privilege and responsibility.

Sitwe

Our friend, Jackson Kaguri, wrote a book (Sitwe Joseph Goes to School) about a boy in Uganda who dreamed for years and years, that he would be lucky enough to go to school.

Our friend, Jackson Kaguri, wrote a book (Sitwe Joseph Goes to School) about a boy in Uganda who dreamed for years and years, that he would be lucky enough to go to school.

Just think! Two years ago, 1 out of every 10 girls –and 1 out of every 12 boys –in the world were school-aged, but were not going to school.

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) says that worldwide, in 2013, about 124 million children (age 6 to 15) either never started school or had dropped out (often because their families couldn’t afford to pay for more school).

Udaipur_girl

In many countries, tuition is free through elementary school, but parents still have to buy school uniforms, school shoes, books, bus fare, lunch, exercise books—and (you know this one!) pencils.

School expenses are just plain unaffordable for many people.

In Zimbabwe, I photographed many barefoot children wearing school uniforms –but no shoes.

Missing school is not just a problem in Africa.

06-26-unesco-school

A mother in Peru told me that it took her six months to save enough money to buy one grade school uniform. She had many children. Big problem!

In many developing countries, high school tuition is totally unaffordable.

That’s why Akili Dada offers scholarships to Kenya girls who are academically accomplished.

subsahara

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa (the countries above) have more than 500,000 school-aged children out of school.

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have more than 500,000 school-aged children out of school.

That includes Angola, Burkino Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan, and Tanzania. In Nigeria alone, almost 9 million elementary-aged children are not in school.

social_en

Many of those children are smart. And they will still BE smart, whether they go to school or not.

In my work, I have met community leaders who only finished the seventh grade yet they are the most educated people in their villages. They are leaders because that much education gives them enough perspective “to see beyond what is,” and mobilize people to create change.

walktoschool

So, my Pencils For Africa friends:

I look forward to hearing your definitions of “smart” and can’t wait to read the “What is Smart?” book you are working on with the girls in Kenya!

Please keep me posted!

Paola Gianturco

paolaPFA