Mint tea in the garden

Johanni Larjanko 






Outside the cool meeting room there is a whooshing sound as a man showers bushes, flowers and grass with water from a garden hose. Everything glistens in the sun. We are sitting at the Faculté des sciences de l'éducation in Rabat, Morocco. Cats are prowling the area. Birds are chirping, but otherwise the campus is quite peaceful. I am sipping some wonderful Moroccan mint tea with heaps of sugar spooned in for good measure.

Earlier in the day thousands of teacher students have marched through the city towards the Ministry of Education, demanding their rights. I was reminded about the challenge of writing editorials for a global journal, always running the risk of limiting my perspective to what I know, to how the world looks according to me.

To be a world citizen takes some very specific skills.

It is afternoon. We have just finished a very long and intense discussion in the AED editorial board. It’s about our upcoming topic. In the middle of our discussion two words emerge. Skills and competencies.

It’s a funny thing with skills. When you have one, you take it for granted. Like walking. Talking. Riding a bike. Reading. It is hard for me to imagine not knowing how to do these things. They are so much a part of who I am, that I find it challenging to make a distinction between my skills and me.

On an intellectual level I understand there are millions of people who cannot swim, read, write, or ride a bike. But on an emotional and personal level I cannot grasp it. Perhaps it is because for example reading or writing is an acquire-and-forget skill. Something you learn once, use all the time, but cannot readily unlearn.

To grasp the reality of someone lacking basic skills is tough. Yet this is a common challenge for adult educators. I cannot presume to know how you feel, what you know, or what you need. But I must try. And so must you.

This is how I see it. A skill might be an integral part of who you are, but it does not define your worth. I am not better than anyone else, regardless of our respective skill levels. Life is not a competition. My skills only make sense when they are used to help you, and vice versa. As living creatures on this planet, we are all connected. What that means in practice, and how it affects adult education, is what we explore in this issue. 

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