It is supported that the purpose of education is to preserve and to provide for change. Any system of education must preserve and provide values, beliefs, customs , processes and knowledge that make the long term survival of an individual and society possible. Hence, education is a crucial element to economic development in Africa. Globalization has contributed considerably to dramatic changes in economic, social and educational sectors and the impact of technological developments in our everyday life has forced enterprises and educational organizations to create innovative ways to adequately prepare the workforce to meet the current market requirements. In this paper I will discuss how Lifelong learning ecosystems can potentially close the skill gap in Africa. I will further analyze the role of the fourth industrial revolution in education, the role of society in determining the purpose of education throughout history, and give thoughts on how to measure the value of education through the e-Mfundi function.

Introduction: The everchanging purpose of education throughout history

The word “education” is derived from the Latin word ēducātiō. Combing the verb educate/ēducō , when directly translated means (“I educate, I train”) which is also related to the homonym ēdūcō (“I lead forth, I take out; I raise up, I erect”), and the suffix – ion, which turns a verb into a noun (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/education#). The very origin of the word’ education evokes the thought of change, progress and evolution. To ‘lead forth’, to ‘take out’ – these words tell a story of progress within themselves, and true to form education has gone through many transformations throughout history. Education as we know it today has undergone many changes; from what we learn, how we learn and most prominently the purpose of education.

Storytelling is the oldest form of education mastered by the human race,however,public education as we know it, was popularised by Horace Mann. Horace Mann also known as,  “The father of American education”, was born on May 4, 1796 in Franklin Massachusetts to parents Rebecca Stanly Mann and Thomas Mann. Horace’s father, Thomas Mann was a farmer who had little income, he instilled strong values and beliefs into his son which anchored him to his commitment to the pursuit of promoting public education. Horace Mann once said that “Education… beyond other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of conditions of men,” in this it is evident that Horace Mann saw a purpose in the power of education, to grant reprieve to the less fortunate, to give everyone a chance at true freedom.

Dictionary.com defines education as “ the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.”

Learning and development are a common feature for all life forms, however, education is strictly a human phenomenon. Societies are rooted in human nature (Chapais, 2008; Moffett, 2013, 2019; Wilson, 2012). The key stages of learning and development that humans progress through, from birth to mature adults, are dependent on development within a society. As the social learning theory suggests; learning is a cognitive process that takes place in a social context, according to Albert Bandura, learning can occur through observation, association and reinforcement. Society shapes all stages of human experience and education is a result of human’s social evolution and adaptation. Thus, I believe, that the purpose of education is directly pegged to the needs, environment, and beliefs of the society at that point in time.

Take for instance the early hunter-gatherer civilizations, their way of life was skill-intensive and knowledge-intensive, but not labor-intensive (https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/freedom-learn). This society had to have a vast knowledge of plants and animals, and have an understanding of landscape which kept them alive. They had to be creative and show initiative in creating tools that would aide them in hunting and gathering food whilst coming up with methods to tracking game but they did not have to work long routinely hours or be forced to stay in one place. The form of education promoted in this society would definitely be different to the education required in an agricultural society. The Agricultural revolution depended on farmers to plow, plant, cultivate, and tend to their stock, which relatively didn’t require much skill but needed long labour hours. Society around the agricultural revolution required children to either work on the fields or stay home to look after those working on the fields. With the responsibility of growing and maintaining crops, nomadic life was replaced with permanent residency in dwellings, and due to this, it allowed people to accumulate property. People who did not own land became dependent on those who did, creating clear status differences. Systems of slavery and other forms of servitude devloped as landowners discovered that they could increase their own wealth by getting other people to work for them. All these factors accumulated to feudalism in Europe during the Middle Ages. Kings and lords were few but at the top and slaves and serfs were many but at the bottom, making society steeply hierarchical in that chronological period. The principal lessons that children had to learn were obedience, suppression of their own will, and the show of reverence toward lords and masters (https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/freedom-learn/200808/brief-history-). Feudalism is arguably the ideological birthplace of private school education, and it was popular for Kings and noblemen to control people through fear and ignorance.

The Middle Ages intensified the subdividing of society to those who have wealth and those who do not, thus implying that the role of education had a different meaning depending on which side of society you were born in. The world knowledge economy at this point was largely influenced by people of power who would only pass on skills and knowledge to their kin or other members of important social class. As knowledge was held by gate keepers, inequality increased at increasing rate globally and possibly the brewing base for the pungent Gini coefficients soup that the world tastes today. With the industrial revolution next on the human race time-line, feudalism was being replaced by the bourgeoisie class. Business owners, similarly to landowners, needed laborers and worked on a function that depended on the exploitation of the proletariat class for the maximization of profit, something Kaarl Marx was not much a of fan of.

Children were moved from fields, to factories but the difference is that the technology found in the factory was more advanced than that of the technology used on the fields. Business owners needed specialised personnel in their factories to operate certain machinery and thus society required the working class to be more skilled to boost the efficiencies and profits of business owners and simultaneously the country. With technology replacing old ways of work and demanding new sets of skills from society, education had the purpose of training individuals to be able to complete specialised jobs within a businesses operations chain. With more jobs being available due to increased business value chains, amongst other factors, the birth of middle income group was imminent and the idea of equality crept back in society in the form of democracy. The American revolution coexisted with the industrial revolution and the abolitionist period begun when the industrial revolution had made its impact on society.

The middle income group is the social metric to indicate the closing inequality gap between the rich and poor in society. Another metric, is how many people have access to quality education. The more education is seen as a luxurious good, the more unequal society is. Making education a public good is what Horace Mann understood and spent his life fighting for. Essentially his message centred on six fundamental propositions: (1) that a republic cannot long remain ignorant and free, hence the necessity of universal popular education; (2) that such education must be paid for, controlled, and sustained by an interested public; (3) that such education is best provided in schools embracing children of all religious, social, and ethnic backgrounds; (4) that such education, while profoundly moral in character, must be free of sectarian religious influence; (5) that such education must be permeated throughout by the spirit, methods, and discipline of a free society, which preclude harsh pedagogy in the classroom; and (6) that such education can be provided only by well-trained, professional teachers (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hall-of-Fame-for-Great-Americans).

Education, Africa & The Black Race. 

If the key stages of learning and development that humans progress through, from birth to mature adults, are dependent on development within a society. Than we must investigate how society treated groups of people and what type of education was accessible to those groups of people within a society. Education is a result of humanbeing’s social evolution and adaptation. On a global scale and in the past four centuries, no other race has faced more recorded oppression than the black race. If education is a result of human’s social evolution and adaption, than one can build onto the premise that education would be different to the groups of society that were discriminated against. As we look across the globe and consider different timelines, the black race in Africa, Europe, and America have come across some form of discrimination that directly affected their access to quality education and economic opportunities to pay for a decent education. Whether it was the Jim Crow Segregation Laws, Apartheid or the Atlantic Slave Trade, the black race was not considered part of society but on many occasions as animals,or as instruments of exploitation for hard labour that helped societies economic structures to grossly profit. De Beers and Unilever are classic corporate examples that benefited historically from exploiting black people in Africa but America, France and the British Empire also deserve some accountability as kingpin states that grew their economic territory through the exploitation of black people.

As I stated earlier on in this paper, the purpose of education is dependent on to the needs, environment, and beliefs of the society at that point in time. If at a point in time, a collective or global society believes that one group or race is not allowed the same privileges as other groups in society, than the definition and purpose of education would be altered depending on what race you belong too. This was made absolute clear in South Africa during the Apartheid era. The Bantu Education Act, 1953 (Act No. 47 of 1953; later renamed the Black Education Act, 1953) was a South African segregation law which legalized several aspects of the apartheid system. Its major provision was enforcing racially separated educational facilities (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bantu_Education_Act,_1953). The purpose of the act was to consolidate Bantu education, i.e. education of black people, so that discriminatory educational practices could be uniformly implemented across South Africa. Previously, black education was administered by provincial governments (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bantu_Education_Act,_1953). The Apartheid government would limit the level of education the indengious people in South Africa would receive as the Minister of Native Affairs at the time, the “Architech of Apartheid” Hendrik Verwoed, stated that: “There is no place for [the Bantu] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour … What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice?” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bantu_Education_Act,_1953). The funding allocated to prepare Black, Coloured and Indian people for mature life through education in the 70s, was only one-tenth of the per capita governmental spending spent on white education. Thirty percent of black schools did not have electricity, twenty five percent had no running water and almost half had no plumbing. The education for Blacks, Indians and Coloureds was substantially cheaper compared to white education but not free, while simultaneously black educators’ salaries were extremely low. Only one third of the black teachers were academically qualified to teach. The constant cycle of receiving below par education on global terms and being unable to economically improve your standard of living based on colour, has had long term devastating impacts on the South African black race and South African society. This cycle was perpetuated over a period of time starting before 1948 and only coming to an end after 1992.

In 1849, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were allowed under the Constitution of Massachusetts (Roberts v. City of Boston). Segregation began in its de jure form in the Southern United States with the passage of Jim Crow laws in the late 19th century (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_segregation_in_the_United_States). The prohibition of education for African Americans had deep roots in American history. According to the 1847 Virginia Criminal Code: “Any white person who shall assemble with slaves, [or] free negroes . . . for the purpose of instructing them to read or write, . . . shall be punished by confinement in the jail . . . and by fine . . .” Under this code, Margaret Douglass, of Norfolk, Virginia, a former slaveholder, was arrested, imprisoned, and fined when authorities discovered that she was teaching “free colored children” of the Christ’s Church Sunday school to read and write. As slavery is etched into America’s history, the inequalities faced in American society can be seen today. As mentioned before, inequality in society will mean a different purpose for education depending on which side of society you fit in. If legislation is denying society to unify, then there will always be an educational gap between the privileged group and the underprivileged group.

Democracy has played a huge role in trying to close the educational gap in societies plagued with discrimenation and intolerance. Constitutional democracy has been the most effective way to provide greater access to quality education but economic opportunity for all is not guaranteed. The rate of advancements in technologies, strategies, and processes throughout time is so vast and increasing at such rate, that it would be almost impossible for misseducated and previously disadvantaged generations to be caught up to speed.In a capitalist system that the world currently operates in, competency and efficiency is highly valued and rewarded. Democracy might of given black people and other previously disadvantaged groups constitutional freedom but not economic freedom.

What is the purpose of education in a democracy where society has equal constitutional rights but unequal economic opportunity due to lack of skills and knowledge? A man might have been given an opportunity to fish at a river he previously did not have access to but if he does not have the skill, resources, and timing he will not benefit from it. Black communities experience high unemployment rates across the globe yet more black people are receiving a quality education. I believe that a shift occurred once democracy became a global theme and racism was replaced by classism. Society was not discriminating against people based on ethnicity but on their wealth, a more ethical and constitutional practice. In most democracies around the world the previously oppressed were not given land but received an opportunity to purchase the land when they could afford it, just like the privileged in society. The problem however is that the black individual started in her new world with an empty bank balance and no high-income earning skills. The purpose of education in a democracratic society has become more complex, the first generation black college student is paying for an education that he or his family cannot afford through credit in hopes of occupying a job that can pay of his debt with interest and hopefully move his entire family up the economic ladder and the classist system. In fact, in 2015 some 71% of college seniors graduated with student loans, with debt averaging $35,000 per student (schwab.com/resource-center/insights/content/student-debt-dilemma).

As democracy has given all a constitutional right to receive a quality education, it does not pay for it and introduces a dilemma, the student debt dilemma. While for some students, the availability of low-interest loans widens opportunities, for others, the increasing prominence of loans could actually narrow their options and decrease their chances of attending and completing college (https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED492219.pdf). Would the role of tertiary education be seen then as a high risk investment vehicle that can accumulate debt in a perpetual cycle for previously oppressed communities ? The return of investment in a college or university degree is coming into question due to the economics at hand. Another question posed to education in a globalised democracratic society is, how much job security can a tertiary education give you ? With globalisation making everything connected and making wage rates lower for businesses and labour becoming more competitive, the new age black man is facing a very tough work environment that he has to navigate in the hopes of improving his economic life. Technology is another factor that threatens job security, as old jobs are replaced with new jobs, and new skills are required to operate and navigate new technologies. Without the proper financing, knowledge base, and guarantee of obtaining a job, the tertiary education system could bring more economic problems than it solves.

The e-Mfundi function: Measuring the value of education.

Education has different goals for different members of society. Society shapes all stages of human experience and education is a result of human’s social evolution and adaptation. The parameters we can use to set a function to measure the value of education are the following. Access to education, cost/capital, potential income earnings, technology, time required and the unemployment rate.  VE(year) = f(A,C,I,T,t,U). The purpose of this equation is to help us determine the value of education for an individual and provide us with a framework to measure whether education is providing a net benefit or a net loss. Simply put, it will help us decide whether an investment in education is an asset or a liability for an individual or society at that point in time. This function can be also called the “e-Mfundi” function and should be used by learners to decipher which education they should pursue at a point in time of their lives.

Access to education is the starting point. Historically there has been a barrier to enter education due to different reasons. Legislation, resources or simply not knowing where to find education. Reading and writing was a skill not everybody knew existed before 3500 B.C, similarly knowing how to cultivate crops, is a skill you only had access to if you were a farmer or had access to a farm prior to the encyclopedia. A hunter-gatherer had no idea what form of education he was missing out on until he met a farmer and only had access to that education through the farmer.  Cost or capital required is the next important function. There is always a cost in obtaining a certain level of education or there is an amount of capital needed to invest in learning/education. This is always a monetary amount. An example would be tuition fees, cost of learning materials, educator or tutor fees etc. Anything monetarily required for an education would be captured by the function of cost/capital in the e-Mfundi function. Potential income earnings is the amount of income a learner would receive if she received the job she was aiming for, once she received the qualification. To become an accountant, you would need a certain level of qualifications before receiving an accountant’s annual salary. It is important to consider the geography and currency factors of this parameter, as some parts of the world pay different salaries for occupations but also require certain qualifications for you to receive that salary. The technology parameter in the e-Mfundi function captures the level of technology in the environment of the learner and the rate it is advancing by. Depending on the geographical positioning of the leaner, the technology level found in their environment will be unique. An African learner would not have the same level of access to technology as a Chinese learner and an American learner might be exposed to new technologies more often than a Jamaican learner. Time is an important factor in identifying the value of education. The amount of time required to complete a certain level of education is captured here, as well as, the necessary experience required before qualifying for an occupation. Lawyers, doctors and accountants are required to spend time in their fields before being admitted into boards or being recognised in their professions as professionals. Finally, the unemployment rate is the final parameter in deciding the value of education. If a learner is in an country or a geographical area where the unemployment rate is high, the likelihood of them finding a job after obtaining an education is low. A more detailed unemployment figure to use in the e-Mfundi equation is the graduate unemployment rate, that will give us better understanding of whether obtaining a level of education in a specific country will give you better chances of obtaining a job in that country. The unemployment rate has to be specific to the country the learner is looking for a job in. A learner in the United Kingdom receiving an education in the United Kingdom, should be looking at the graduate unemployment rate in the United Kingdom. Zimbabwe is another case where the country has a lot of qualified academic personnel but not enough jobs.

Advances in technology leads to changes in environment and behaviour. Changes in environment and behaviour leads to changes in society. Education is a result of human’s social evolution and adaptation. If technology leads to society’s evolution and adaptation, than technology will always influence education. The purpose of education in a point in time will be affected by the level of technology at that point in time. Humans have always depended on tools to help them survive harsh environments and defeat predators. Tools signify technology, helping people to solve problems or creating systems that have better efficiencies. The moment caveman created tools to create and manipulate fire, that was the moment humans became the apex predator and had the necessities to evolve and grow the homo sapiens as a species. The fundamental purpose of education was to teach younger generations on how to craft or use tools/technology for the survival and growth of their family, community or society. Hunter-gatherers taught their offspring how to craft weapons to hunt prey so that families could eat, farmers schooled their children on how to plant, grow and maintain crops using certain tools and concepts, and factory owners taught their employees how to use and interact with machinery to produce products which sell for profit. Business owners now require learning institutions to prepare people on how to operate certain technologies and processes in a certain field, to help the business achieve efficiencies and higher profit margins. Education should make one more competent with a certain tool or process. At each industrial revolution, education had to evolve with technology and society evolved due to advancements in technology. This creating a constant loop between society, technology and education.

Technology also impacts the way education is distributed, produced and consumed, which inturn impacts how accessible education is. In the time where education was captured by rock paintings and storytelling, the number of people who had access to that information was based on how many people could hear the story or see the rock painting. The moment Johannes Gutternburg invented the printing press, knowledge could be captured in the form of print and paper, which increased the amount of books in the world and books became the primary medium to transfer knowledge.

Technology also increased the speed of communication and the global reach of information, which significantly drop the costs of transporting information and education. The internet has given everybody who has access to it, an unlimited amount of information, knowledge and wisdom at a marginal cost that is approaching zero. Information is on its way or is already become free. Educational content is a depreciating asset due to advancements in technology. The world wide web has given everybody an encyclopedia for free and the knowledge in the encyclopedia does not appreciate due to scarcity of encyclopedias. Due to the internet there has been an explosion of people who are well versed in certain niches of society and have become as knowledgeable as qualified educators, thus the net cost of training a teacher has reduce drastically and the world has more teachers today than it has ever had. Education now can be captured by audio & video, and stored on the internet. This insuring that information is never lost due to the effects of time and makes passing wisdom from one generation to another more convenient. The rise of social media, and specifically Youtube, Google, and Facebook, has given everyone who has access to the internet a way to improve their quantity of knowledge and to economically benefit from it.

Digital real estate can be owned by anybody and the cost to acquire digital real estate is just time and social proof. Technology, in the form of the internet, has reduced the cost of owning an economic asset and has removed a lot of barriers of entry for trade. Instagram influencers are the perfect example of how individuals are monetising the use social media to make money consistently over a period of time. The tools and processes required to become a profitable instagram influencer are found on Youtube, a free platform that has millions of educators that give away information for free. Drop-shipping is another a phenomena that the internet has brought us that has allowed anybody from around the world to sell goods anyway globally without owning the product, shopify explains “ Dropshipping is a retail fulfillment method where a store doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when a store sells a product using the dropshipping model, it purchases the item from a third party and has it shipped directly to the customer. As a result, the seller doesn’t have to handle the product directly.” (https://www.shopify.co.za/blog/what-is-dropshipping). With technology development and access growing at such an exponential rate, how quickly is society evolving? Or better stated, is the current education system sufficient to meet the requirements of today’s society ? If education is a result of human’s social evolution and adaptation, than I do believe that the current education system we find today is not sufficient for today’s society, and I propose the Lifelong learning ecosystem approach.

Lifelong Learning Ecosystems

Education is a human phenomena but learning and development are a common feature in life. Every organism on planet earth has an ability to learn but not all have the same capacity to learn. This is due to the limitations of each organism’s brain, thus it is fitting that education is a human phenomena as the homo sapiens have the most advanced brains on earth. Lifelong learning is the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated” pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Therefore, it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development, but also self-sustainability, as well as competitiveness and employability (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifelong_learning).

The current education system employed globally and specifically in Africa, is designed intentionally to prepare learners for mature and economic life through theoretical & practical tests set by academics. Once learners pass a series of these tests, they are awarded a certain qualification to prove to society that the learner has completed a curriculum at certain degree at a specific academic institution. Employers would hire graduates based on the institutions they went to and what level of a degree they achieved, and then further skilled them up to fit in their organisational structures. The current education system does not prepare individuals for economic freedom or wealth but to achieve a certain qualification in an academic field. The 3rd industrial revolution, which brought electronics, telecommunications and computers, required this current education system to help society, private institutions and states progress forward in economic and social life. However, we are no longer in the third industrial age but have progressed to the 4th industrial age and require a change in education and how education is distributed, consumed and graded. I believe the current education system is insufficient to prepare the individual and especially the black individual in today’s industry 4.0 society. I suggest society embraces a lifelong learning ecosystem.

A lifelong learning ecosystem is a system of people, content, technology, culture, and strategy, existing both within and outside of an organization/institution, all of which has an impact on both the formal and informal learning that goes on in that organization over a lifelong period of time (https://www.ej4.com/blog/what-is-a-learning-ecosystem#). A learning ecosystem is the learning and development equivalent of an ecosystem out in the wild. Just as a living ecosystem has many interacting species, environments, and the complex relationships among them, a learning ecosystem has many people and pieces of content, in different roles and learning contexts, and complex relationships operating over a period time.Just like a living ecosystem, a learning ecosystem can be healthy or sick, nurtured or threatened, self-sustaining or endangered. Achieving your development goals, then, requires an organization to be aware of its own ecosystem, including its parts and the internal and external forces that shape them (https://www.ej4.com/blog/what-is-a-learning-ecosystem#).

People in your lifelong learning ecosystem are of course the learners, they are the ones you want to develop but also consider whom they are learning from. Formal instructors, managers & team leaders, veteran employees, suppliers, friends and family, and of course the internet. There is an element of control of what information comes within your institution but informal learning cannot be controlled. The learning ecosystem requires you to monitor the attitudes of people when it comes to learning, this is where management is key. If management is not on board with the way you train people, attitudes toward training will not be conducive to learning (https://www.ej4.com/blog/what-is-a-learning-ecosystem#). Content is the educational material that the learners consume. Content can be used in formal training sessions: classroom training, assigned video courses, manuals and reference guides, emailed tips, quizzes, exams, reminder videos, etc. Content is informal in nature, too. Conversations with managers, knowledge handed down through mentorship relationships, and other tribal knowledge are all content, too. Mobile technologies, modern learning management systems and social tools like our social learning platform, NEST (nest.emfundi.com), offer unprecedented access to knowledge, skills and economic opportunities. On the NEST platform learners have an opportunity to interact with peers virtually in learning contexts and the purpose of the platform is to teach learners how to make an income online. For L&D professionals, technology allows for a greater degree of blended learning, letting them be more creative and more effective in their roles. Technology also allows measurement like never before. Learning and development staff can measure and see what courses are the most popular, how much of a course is viewed, and which courses any given individual has completed. This allows organizations to track not only individual progress, but training effectiveness overall. When it comes to lifelong learning ecosystems, a learning culture is the background, or the “tone,” that tells people what to expect. It’s critically important, then, to take stock of your learning culture and ask some hard-hitting questions. For example, does your learning culture support self-directed learning? Are employees/learners encouraged to share? To what degree do you want, or need, to control the learning experience? Lastly, learning and development decisions should be made from a strategic point of view, with all the components of the learning ecosystem pointed toward achieving the individual’s/organization’s strategic goals.

Tertiary Education System vs Lifelong Learning Ecosystem

The e-Mfundi function states that the true value of education is dependent on access, cost/capital required, potential income earnings, technology, time required and the unemployment rate (graduate unemployment rate of a specific country). An african and/or person of colour deciding whether or not to obtain a tertiary education should consider this function. As i’ve mentioned, the function of tertiary education is to prove to society that the learner has completed a curriculum at certain degree at a specific academic institution, in the hopes that the learner receives an occupation based on that qualification. I believe that the purpose of education should be to teach a learner on how to obtain economic wealth, especially in the 4th industrial revolution. I argue that a lifelong learning ecosystem would serve a learner better than a tertiary education. The purpose of a lifelong learning ecosystem is for the leaner to constantly learn and grow their economic wealth. Just like in a wild life ecosystem, every animal involved has an objective to survive, feed and grow their territory or species.

“Earn as you Learn” is the philosophy embedded within a lifelong learning ecosystem. Apprenticeships and internships are more valued in a lifelong learning ecosystem than a qualification. A learner must be able to learn a craft through an individual who has mastered that craft and not an academic who has no real life practical experience in that craft but is a doctor or professor in those studies. A lifelong learner in a learning ecosystem must adopt the lean methodology rather than to accept the traditional pedagogies of a tertiary education. The lean methodology in this context is a way of optimizing people, resources, effort, and energy of your learning and development toward creating economic value for the learner. It is based on two guiding tenets, continuous improvement and respect for people. It is of my opinion that theoretical tests and examinations have no place in real life and thus the lean methodology is more successful approach to teaching an individual a concept. Copying is frowned upon in the current education system, but mimicking is scientifically the best way human beings learn and the lifelong learning ecosystem encourages it.

Modern learning focuses on rigorous structures and confined learning spaces, whilst a lifelong learning ecosystem encourages open learning environments and for learning to be a part of a lifestyle rather than being scheduled. Self paced learning in an environment where information is everywhere online, is a prime environment for a lifelong learning. Discipline and continuous self improvement is required if one must be successful in a lifelong learning ecosystem. A leaner in a learning ecosystem must be conscious of her habits and build habits that are conducive to her learning, and must be meticulous and continuous in filtering out habits that do not serve her learning or economic wealth gains. Wealth gains or wealth loss is the only report card in the lifelong learning ecosystem. You continue actions and habits that increase wealth and you eliminate actions, learnings and habits that reduce personal wealth. “Get rich or keep learning” is the golden mantra and commandment of a lifelong learning ecosystem.

The learner in a lifelong learning ecosystem is expected to incur wealth as a bi-product of their habits and learnings. There is no respect to experts who spent years in study but have no economic wealth to show for it. In any ecosystem in nature, those who cannot produce value or adapt to bring value, are on their way to extinction. It is no different in the lifelong learning ecosystem, and that is why understanding the lean methodology is pivotal for survival and growth of a learner in this education system. The lifelong learning ecosystem prepares one better for life after tertiary education and I believe builds more character as the concept of testing and grading is a false simulation of how challenges actually occur in real life. As there is no grading in the my proposed approach to adult education, a learner must always practice self awareness and be conscious of the environment there are in to help them take the necessary steps to achieving wealth. Learners must use the resources around them to make continuous micro improvements towards their milestones in achieving wealth, regardless of what field of knowledge they chose to obtain. Real-time on-demand learning is the curriculum of the lifelong learning ecosystem. You learn something when you need to know it, so that you can get closer to the goal that opens more wealth opportunities for you. You do not learn for the sake of passing a test, so that you can achieve a grade, that helps you get closer to your qualification. Employers pay for value and not for qualifications. A lifelong learner is always trying to learn how to provide value and how to profit from it economically.

The content in the lifelong learning ecosystem is decided by the learner and the learner’s learning path. It is fluid and check point related. All learning is directed in a way to ensures the learner is able to jump the hurdle to get to the wealth finish line pending on which field or sector the learner chooses to become wealthy in. However, understanding Neuroscience, Economics, Science and Technology is a base requirement to help a student evolve in their field of study and in the lifelong learning ecosystem. The NEST platform, which stands for Neuroscience, Economics, Science, and Technology (nest.emfundi.com), serves as a starting point for anyone interested in becoming a lifelong learner in forward thinking, economic driven education system.

The African Renaissance, Closing The African Gap 

Africa and people originating from the continent have historically been delt an unfortunate hand but the 4th industrial revolution has given Alkebulan, (The oldest name for Africa), a unique opportunity to catch up to the rest of the nations at a fraction of the effort and cost or at least help move the continent forward economically, socially and technologically at a faster rate than ever seen before. With the smartphone adoption rate constantly growing on the continent and internet access becoming more universal, it is only a matter of time Africa no longer goes by the name “ The Dark Continent”.

An education system like a lifelong learning ecosystem will leave a 21st century African learner better off but for him to benefit he must have a secondary education and access to the internet. Democracy has allowed black people and Africa, a real opportunity to pursue wealth. Africans should no longer go by the maxim of “Blood, Sweat and Tears” but by the maxim created by NBA Legend Kevin Garnett, “Blood, Sweat and Equity”. A lifelong learning ecosystem is one I’m sure the great educator Booker T Washington would have appreciate as he stated that “ industry, thrift, intelligence and property” is what African Americans should strive for on their way in obtaining civil rights.

Learning and development are a common feature for all life forms, however, education is strictly a human phenomenon. To figure out the value of education one must consider the access to education, cost/capital, potential income earnings, technology, time required and the unemployment rate.  VE(year) = f(A,C,I,T,t,U). The purpose of education is directly pegged to the needs, environment, and beliefs of the society at that point in time. The tertiary education system was sufficient for the third industrial age but not for the 4th industrial age. The future of adult education in Africa has to be lifelong learning ecosystems and the 21st century African learner has more learning and economic opportunities now than any African learner in the history of mankind. For an African renaissance to occur we must think radically on how we can change education to benefit previously disadvantage groups in society and I believe it starts with Africans and black people adopting a lifelong learning ecosystem as their framework for adult education.


This paper is written in the loving memory of Wenzi “African Renaissance Man”  Mgeyane a director and co-founder at e-Mfundi.


  1. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/education#:~:text=The%20first%20records%20of%20education,a%20verb%20into%20a%20noun.
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horace_Mann
  3. file:///Users/HBCDlamini/Downloads/How_and_Why_Formal_Education_Originated_in_the_Eme.pdf
  4. https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/freedom-learn/200808/brief-history-education#:~:text=The%20idea%20and%20practice%20of,century%20on%20into%20the%2019th.&text=In%20America%2C%20in%20the%20mid,turn%20children%20into%20good%20Puritans.
  5. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hall-of-Fame-for-Great-Americans
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bantu_Education_Act,_1953
  7. schwab.com/resource-center/insights/content/student-debt-dilemma
  8. https://www.shopify.co.za/blog/what-is-dropshipping
  9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifelong_learning
  10. https://www.ej4.com/blog/what-is-a-learning-ecosystem#:~:text=A%20learning%20ecosystem%20is%20a,worth%20paying%20attention%20to%20here.333)

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