We got straight into it this morning with the fresh-faced fellows bringing along their artefacts to share with the group over breakfast. The artefacts were precious treasures, trinkets and treats that meant something special or represented something important for each of our fellows; from peanut butter to an indigenous spekboom (bacon tree) plant. Coming together around the breakfast table, we realized just how small the world is and how much we can learn from each other.
There was excitement in the air as we were (virtually) introduced to Dr Leyla Acaroglu, via videoconference. We discussed systems-thinking and change-making before getting into groups to map out some of the social, industrial, and environmental systems that shape our world and our lives. Despite some hesitation, we really outdid ourselves in sticking to the task of creating messy, chaotic and beautiful systems maps in all their complexity. The brain-dump of our collective group’s systems-mapping squeezed out so much juice and the subsequent conversations that flowed really reflected a morning of deep thinking and reflection.
After a refreshing, wholesome, and colourful lunch prepared by the Unschool team (5* star reviews from the fellows!), we hopped onto a Golden Arrow bus also known as “the Bus for Us” which has been servicing the city for 157 years! We left the east precinct and ventured down the highway to meet one of our mentors, Emile YX “vannie Kaap se vlakte” (from the Cape Flats). Emile, who needs no introduction, had a big sense of self, sense of humour, and head of hair! He interestingly started by talking about how he had grown out his hair to its natural state as a part of his search for his identity as a person of colour in Cape Town, South Africa. It turns out that his huge afro matches his unapologetic vibrance and exuberant energy. Since then, Emile constantly found himself going to his creativity and artistry to work his way around the systems that don’t work for him. This has led him to leverage his unconventional teaching methods through hip-hop and dance. He dedicates his life to encouraging and developing youth by equipping them with the personal, practical, (and quite literally physical) tools to navigate social systems in a way that works for them. Emile drew us out of our comfort zones by getting us dancing in a pretty cosy circle – nothing quite like the B-boy’s breakdancing moves though but some fellows were close!
The next adventure had all the fellows curious and guessing where we were off to next. There’s no doubt that the unknown aspect of the Unschool itinerary is part and parcel of the un-learning process! Back on the ‘bus for us’, we headed to a different part of the city, as the sun was starting to set.
All around the world the holy month of Ramadaan is being observed by Muslims. This is a very significant month on the Islamic calendar and is always a special time in Cape Town as the communities are filled with the sharing spirit. Zayaan Khan and her family welcomed us into their family home to boeka (breaking of the fast). As tradition dictates, dates and water were laid out along with savoury treats, fruit, and tea. Zayaan invited us to share our intentions for the UnSchool fellowship with the group, while we rolled date balls. When the clock hit 17:50 it was time to break fast and from then for the entire evening, delicious platters kept arriving from the kitchen. Zayaan shared her story of her identity and how it feeds into the work she does with plants and indigenous food in the Cape. She shared how being aware of those living in the land (and oceans!) can be so replenishing for mind, body, and soul. She also shared a few tips of harvesting plants from her surroundings to make the delicious tea we were enjoying.
The night ended with the fellows talking about what it takes to be a leader and the internal and external conflicts that arise from leading social change – and all of this reflection with very full heads and stomachs!