AN EDUCATION REVOLUTION – UoPeople Review

I know there have been many concerns with us, Life Learners, and questions about the academic route for our children who have not done an orthodox education so to speak and want to go on a scholastic path in the future. I may have just the solution for you.

*For those that are not familiar with the term Life Learning, please follow this link http://pragashnienaidoo.co.za/2017/02/23/142/. Life Learning is basically a branch of home-schooling. I encourage you to read the article as you will then gather some understanding of why I am so excited about this journey.

Last year my son discovered an online university called University of the People (UoPeople) which enrolled him into the University with just his GED qualification. Today I am going to talk a little about this university, why I have chosen to be one of the many Ambassadors for the university and how it is THE education revolution that fits in perfectly with my philosophy of education/life, my own financial standard of living, pedagogue and touch on a much more personal note.

Let’s tuck right in! University of the people is a tuition-free, distance learning, non-profit, online institution founded by entrepreneur Shai Reshef in 2009. The institute offers undergraduate and graduate degrees. Currently, the only programs they have are Associates Degree and Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Computer Science and Health Science with the addition of one Graduate Degree a Master’s in Business Administration. I truly believe that UoPeople will expand their horizons in future with the growing need of such universities that work on a global level. I have said this in my other posts, it does not make sense in the technological age that we live in, to be restricted to schools and campuses when we have information at our fingertips and UoPeople offers just that. I am not going to go into much more details about the UoPeople as there is way too much of information to share so I coax you to visit this link https://www.uopeople.edu/ and navigate the easy website for more information. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me or the university directly.

So why am I bragging about this University? The university itself encourages intrinsic learning which has given my son the opportunity to grow his education by studying Business Administration, something he is passionate about, which continues to evolve him through a philosophy he is already comfortable with, that is Life Learning.  He gets to meet people on a global scale that interact with him at his interest level thus developing more social skills by engaging with people of all ages. This is very much a trait that we are all used to as Life Learners; we take pride in being able to hold conversations with people no matter what their age is and this is exemplified on UoPeople’s educational platform.

He is 1 year away from getting his associates degree while he works on other opportunities that he wishes to use in his future endeavors and all this at the cost of just $100 per course. This was also great for my son who did not have much of a formal education and gives us Life Learners an opportunity (or hope) to let our kids still engage in the world of academics if that is the route that they choose. We can actually stop worrying and know that the GED works at UoPeople. The only unfortunate side is the programs are limited at the moment but as I already mentioned, I can only see this expanding in the future.

Now how did I come into the picture? Well, I looked at how the program was designed when he first started a year ago and thought, this is something that I think I may enjoy doing and so I applied to the university and they accepted my registration. The pedagogue spoke to me, because of the graded continuous assessment that takes place weekly that go towards your cumulative subject grade at the end of the course. I also get to write exams in the comfort of my own home without the added stresses that I have experienced in the past. Some courses are also proctored to ensure the authenticity of the exams which verifies the student and guarantees a standard that aligns with the accrediting agents.

I have very bad memories of distance learning and one of them is being kicked out of University of South Africa twice in my lifetime, simply because I never had the peer and instructor support that we have here. Being an anxious person, I also remember going into the Physics exam room and was so nervous that I got up and left after 10 minutes. But of course, this type of education was not possible 22 years ago and now that I have found a university that aligns with my own method of learning I am going for it.

End of the next term I will be 1 year with UoPeople and like my son, I am enjoying an education from the comfort of my own home (being an introvert too) and getting to engage with so many of my peers that come from all parts of the world and getting to know them and their culture in this process. This tears down the walls that we have put up in terms of boundaries for each country. It gives us the opportunity to communicate at a global level driving greater moments, to even possibly succeed academically at global altitudes. We also get to do this through a medium of common interests, that is, the common courses we take.  It is a very interesting, intriguing and an exciting journey, indeed.

Now, we all know that as Life Learners (homeschoolers) there is somewhat a trade-off when it comes to our lifestyle. Money! Most of our homes have one income that we live off or some have businesses from home to be able to compensate for time and the need to heed to the philosophy of Life Learning and sometimes these businesses may not do as well as we want them to do because we have chosen a path of learning through discovery rather than a monetary one. I would never have been able to join my son to study if it was not for the tuition-free part of the university, the affordability of it. I am able to further my education knowing that once I reach the stage of the fledglings leaving the nest, I would be in a viable position to pursue a working career again. I would not have been able to take 2 courses a term either if it was not for the generous scholarships offered by the partners of UoPeople. This also changes things drastically and puts education into the hands of the scholars in a way that we do not have to pay back exorbitant student loans accrued during the full time and part time studies because UoPeople is accessibly affordable.

As Life Learners some of us have been very well acquainted with the gifting society. This brings me to my next point. UoPeople is a non-profit organization that has the global world at heart. It has 6000 volunteers from all over the world who are qualified professionals in their fields to instruct and guide the students through each term.  In my opinion ‘Ubuntu’ does not get better than this, a great force of people who give back to society on such a global magnitude and do it with such grace and passion. Without these volunteers, it would not be possible to bring education literally to your fingertips with such an affordable and sustainable system. This right here aligns with everything that my soul has resonated with, since the beginning of my time on earth and my own personal journey in life.

**For those that do not know what Ubuntu means here is a Wikipedia link that has a great explanation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_philosophy.

Just to re-cap and remind you, you are getting integrity, compassion, globalization, and academically driven career opportunities on a magnified global scale and so much more and the University is accredited and has partnered with some of the grander universities like New York University, University of Edinburgh, UC Berkley and Yale Law School ISP. It would be good to also add for my fellow South Africans that South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) recognizes the qualifications from UoPeople (you can actually email SAQA at overseasinstitutions@saqa.co.za to put your mind at ease)and UoPeople is also American accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) which can be viewed at this link https://www.uopeople.edu/student-experience/quality/accreditation/ UoPeople is certainly an Education Revolution and it certainly speaks my language for the future generations. NO, UoPeople is NOT a scam as some may believe that all this may be too good to be true.

On a much more personal level, it has ignited my passion for natural sciences again. At this age, I never for once thought that I would be pursuing a degree, alongside my son, that too. I may not end up becoming an astronomer as it was my childhood dream but I certainly have a passion for helping people, research, and the natural sciences. My journey of life has taken a different path since I started at UoPeople. I do see a Ph.D. in the future in possibly research Biology, maybe majoring in genetics. Who knows! The other possibility would be to combine my current skills as a writer and pursue a career in medical writing. I all of a sudden can see the world through a different set of lens and I found a purpose to exist again, after a traumatic experience in my life. If I may say so, it keeps the depression at bay and has made me feel great about myself again. I have a driving force to see this through, something I did not particularly have before UoPeople. From the kind and helpful Admissions staff, Administrative staff, my own Personal Program Advisor and the mostly helpful instructors that I have experienced it definitely makes me want to wake up every morning knowing that there are people out there that DO care and do want to see you get up and GO! UoPeople has contributed to my restoration in my faith in humanity again and certainly has rekindled my ambition for life keeping me motivated and headstrong.

Once again, if you have any questions regarding UoPeople, please do not hesitate to contact me or the university directly.

Visit our UoPeople Student Review page https://www.uopeople.edu/student-reviews/  to hear others brag about their experiences.

PEACE
P.N.

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NaNoWriMo 2017

I know this post is a few weeks late, as I had the word document all opened up before the end of November to account my 1st experience with NaNoWriMo. Well, things don’t always go as planned and still raw from the experience of writing my first loose draft of my novel, I did not feel like doing it at that time, but here we are.

NaNoWriMo!  Something that I have only found out about this year and had no clue that the writing world was so jacked up with all these wonderful motivational tools that encourage us to Just Do It! No more excuses, no more hiding behind the shrouds of mystery that you have created in real time and no more wondering if you will ever write that book that you have been talking about since your 19-year-old son was just born. The best time is the right now, which is what NaNoWriMo offers you.

Before I continue, let me just highlight what exactly is NaNoWriMo and what does it mean to be one of all the other winners of NaNoWriMo. Firstly it stands for National Novel Writing Month which is the month of November, every year. You have 30 days to write 50 000 words which are about the word count of a Young Adult Novel or a toss between a Novella and a shorter Novel. You enter your word count on the website as you progress. You reach 50 000 words within that month then you are considered a winner. There are other elements to the concept too and you also get virtual badges as you reach certain milestones whilst you on the WriMo journey. You do not even have to write a novel or work towards a novel and just write blog posts or short stories which means you get classified as a NaNo rebel, which I suppose is cool too.

The question is, was Nanowrimo beneficial to me? The answer is actually both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. I bought into the concept and I did win but would I write a novel in this manner again? Probably not!

I started out the first day deciding that I was a Pantser meaning the words will fly from the seat of my pants and wrote down 2500 words and then I hit writer’s block the next day. I had no clue as for where to go to from there and could not even get a proper visual in my head to continue with a story that I wanted to write for almost 2 decades. Then I found out about the Hero’s Journey and then the Heroine’s journey and tried to use that as a basis to plot my story.  How does someone hit a roadblock when you haven’t even gotten past 2500 words? It took me 4 days to plot the gist of the story still not sure about what goes where and how, but I just started plotting scenes and this now makes me a Plotter by the way, which is self-explanatory.

Right, so I got the story sorted in my head and was back at it again. A long story short, I did finish a couple days before the end of the month reaching slightly over 50 000 words, but the novel was far from finished. So yes, NaNo has helped me get to 50 000 words and I was able to do something that I thought I would never get done, let alone in under 30 days.

The downside (for me) was not being able to exercise the full potential of my creation of words and sentences and it worked terribly on my OCD and quite stressful in general from this aspect and not forgetting the genre I was writing was a drama and my poor MC (main character) faced a fate of ‘series of unfortunate events’. The story itself was emotional as I had to re-visit certain aspects of myself and draw on many experiences of my own life to write this story, so it did not give me enough time to reflect and digest my own feelings and make my OCD happy, writing and editing all at the same time, which is not the NaNo concept fault of course as it is different strokes for different folks. The story focuses heavily on child abuse and child sexual abuse and rape culture so I think it was quite a heavy write to create and assimilate in under 30 days.

NaNo’s support was really great though. It was beautiful to see and experience the comradeship that was either online (which I participated in) and some towns around the world had their weekly meetups in coffee shops or other common venues. There were many that did not get to 50 000 words and were gently reminded that the words that they have now are much better than they had a few days ago. The point of it is, you have got something done in otherwise would not have gotten done. I was cheered and coaxed and encouraged on this journey by the Samaritans of the writing community. Let me not forget the support I had from family and friends and other members of the public who did not join the NaNoWriMo and the continued ongoing support that I am still getting.

Where to from then? I am extremely glad I did do WriMo because I finally wrote a book even if it is just a loose draft. I have given the story a break and will return to it in the first week of January 2018 and re-write a lot of the scenes and I have at least 20 000 words more to add to the story. I think if all goes well then I will publish anything between July and December next year. I will certainly use WriMo again but will return as a rebel as I can do short stories and blog posts which probably are not so close to my heart like writing this book.

Here is an excerpt from the book ‘Little Specs of Dust’, a name I may or may not keep as its title.

The long walks to school were a breath of fresh air, we could cross the river on the far left from the mini bamboo-forest closer to the stream side and hopscotch on rocks to safely land on the other side and make our way to the sweet aunty to get our early morning sweets. We never had money for that but stealing a 10 cent from the auspicious brass chombu that sacredly held the weekly coins placed in it every Friday as an offering to the mother luxmi, the goddess of good fortune, did get us quite a few items for the week. Bubblegum was 1 cent for 3 and bor and figs were 1 cent a packet. The sweet aunty would sit on a very low stool sprawled out like a Buddha in her sari tucking it in places to hide the rolls that seem to find a way to take a peek every now and then, as she systematically collected the coins for the exchange of the goods spread out on her cloth that she neatly set out on the ground. She smiled all the time and every now and then she would take her right index finger to push her thick-framed glasses back up the ridge of her nose because it slid down from the beads of sweat forming on her forehead from the exotic Durban heat.

Before we can even get to the sweet aunty there was another obstacle we had to face after the river, they would be there some days which gave us other days a smooth passage to the sweet aunty and then climb the small hill to get onto the road where our school stood in front of us. When they were there the trip to school seemed longer and the breath of fresh air became stale with fear. They usually followed the herd boy when they were majestically passing through the plane heading in the direction of the bamboo forest but sometimes they lounged in the open air whilst the herd boy sat on the ground very much basking in the morning glory. The bottom jaw seemed to have a mind of its own moving from side to side busy chomping away whatever it is that cows chomped on. My sister would hold my hand and I would walk behind her clutching onto her school belt as we both braved the fierce beasts that towered above us and they took their place on their grassy thrones. We would walk quietly at times trying not to disturb their rituals and meditations and there are times we would scurry through the spaces between them when they decided to let us know how unpleased they were with a huge “Moooo” from their now disturbed chewing. When we made it through this, then only we would start breathing again and I would run behind my sister while she held my hand pulling me to safety. All this was left in the distant air once we reached the sweet aunty.

© Pragashnie Naidoo

 

PEACE
PN

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Vegan Fruitcake Recipe

MANDALA FRUITCAKE

Couple months back I had fruitcake cravings, coming from someone that never liked anything that was cooked with fruits. Anyone from my family knows that sweet rice (typical Indian dessert dish commonly used in all rituals, prayers, and functions) with raisins or soji with raisins just does not sit well with me. Anyway I am also someone that listens to my body and this vehicle of mine wanted fruit cake so I was not going to deny it from fruitcake, so I took the lazy way out and ordered for a vegan fruit. Here I was thinking well, mmmm, fruit cake, something that was not my favorite thing, I will order it, cut it up into small servings and freeze it for whenever the craving returned. I DID cut it up and freeze but it was my biggest mistake…….it never lasted so long in the freezer, by the end of the week between my life partner, kids and I, it was eaten and a broken promise to my mother as I was supposed to keep a piece for her.

I still wanted fruitcake, so the creative side kicked in and did what I do best. Research a whole lot of recipes and re-invent the wheel. It really was co-incidental that all this happened during the festive season but I did manage to kill 2 birds with one stone as now I have a cake to bring to the table for Xmas lunch being hosted by my sister at my place. Serve this cake with vanilla vegan custard and you have a winner!

This is my version of the fruitcake and it did have a little more flour than a normal fruit cake. It is also alcohol-free (I used non-alcoholic rum essence), vegan-friendly, and sugar-free (because of all the fruits and using dates as a substitute for sugar).  It was made with stone ground flour and the flour can be easily substituted for gluten-free flour. I think this is a very forgiving cake to be converted to gluten-free because the density of the cake is expected. I made a bulk lot of the cake but have scaled down the recipe for you.  This fits into a 20cm square baking tin and serves 12-15.

Just note that this is a non-alcoholic cake so you do not require basting/feeding the cake like you would do if alcohol was used to preserve it. This cake will keep for 2-3 days out of the fridge, thereafter it will keep for 10 days in the fridge and then you are required to freeze it if it does not get finished within those days, because there is no alcohol it will start molding if you do not follow these steps.  But trust me I do not think it would get to the freezer stage, unless you are like me and bake in bulk.

 

Ingredients

3 cups dried fruit mix

I used Sultanas, raisins, black currants, goji berries, apples, apricot, cranberries, blueberries, and prunes. I chopped up the bigger dried fruits to raisin size pieces. My recipe did have more of the Sultanas, black currants and raisins like most of the other recipes.

1 cup citrus peels

I finely diced orange and lemon rind that were the similar size of the black currants. The rind is the outermost part of the skin, not the white but the yellow or orange parts of the skin.

1 ½ cup masala (chai) tea

I used two teabags brewed in 1 cup water for soaking the fruits. The other half cup is made with one tea bag in half cup water to baste the cake with once. You can be adventurous and make your own masala tea, but make sure it is strong.

2 tbls rum essence (non-alcoholic) split in half.

1 tbls to be used at the soaking stage and the other tbls to be used in the cake batter when baking.

½ cup coconut Oil

You can use any oil or vegan margarine

1 cup apple juice

You can use orange juice or grape juice if you like.

spices

4  Clove buds (ground)

1  teaspoon Allspice powder

1  teaspoon ground Cinnamon

1  teaspoon grated fresh Ginger

1/2  teaspoon ground Nutmeg

1/2  teaspoon Caraway seeds (ground)

I lightly toasted the clove buds and caraway seeds to release some of their oils before grinding them.

1 cup dates

Chopped and soaked overnight (the day before you bake the cake) with just enough water to cover the dates in the bowl. This will be liquidized to be added to the recipe.

1 – 2 cup nuts plus extra half pecans for decorating

You can use walnuts, almonds or pecan, any nuts really roughly chopped up. I skimped on the nuts and used sprinkle peanuts. The other ingredients already cost so much and I went over budget, besides I wanted the pecans to decorate the cake.

1 ¾  cups cake flour

Sifted

1 tbls ground flaxseed

This is to bind the mixture and used in place of eggs.

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

 

Method

Step 1

Decide when you actually want to bake the cake, and then soak the dried fruits, together with the citrus peels and 1 tablespoon rum essence in 1 cup of masala tea up to 7 days keeping the soaked fruits in the fridge.

Soaked Dried Fruits

Step 2

Soak dates night before baking or if you baking in the evening then you can soak it in the morning. Liquidize dates.

Take the soaked fruits and liquidized dates and put it in a stainless steel pot together with the juice, spices and coconut oil and bring it to boil and simmer for 5-7 mins.

This mixture needs to cool down to room temperature before using. If not using the same day you can refrigerate but make sure you take it out from the fridge a few hours before to bring the mixture back to room temperature before making the cake batter. All this affects the cooking time and process during baking, so always make sure your ingredients are at room temperature.

Liquidized Soaked Dates

All Ingredients in the pot ready to be brought up to boil and simmer for 5-7 mins.

Step 3

Now you ready to make the batter. Preheat oven to 175 Degrees Celcius

Add the remaining dry ingredients, ground flaxseed, salt, baking powder, baking soda and nuts to the sifted flour.

Add the remaining wet ingredients, rum, vanilla extract and lemon zest to the fruit mixture. Mix well. If you anything like me, get the hubby involved in using muscle power to mix well.

Now combine both the wet and dry ingredients and mix well. Put in the well-greased baking tray, tap the baking dish on the counter to settle the batter evenly or use a greased plastic plate like what hubby did to press down the batter to remove air bubbles and bake for 45-60 min. Poke a skewer and if it comes out clean then it is cooked.

 

Dry Ingredients
Hubby helping in the kitchen, removing air bubbles with even distribution

Step 4

Let the cake cool in the tray. Poke holes with a skewer and spoon the half cup of tea onto the cake till the cake soaks up the tea.

Now you can either decorate the cake with nuts and cherries if you like. Sift some icing over it and then cling wrap and let it mature for 2 days then put it in the fridge. You can also decorate the cake when you are ready to serve it.

The cake I baked did get slightly burnt underneath but that is because of my oven. I do not have one of the best ovens to bake in.

Try it out and leave comments below to let me know how you did.

PEACE
PN

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Unconditional Love, Respect and Trust for our Kids

I have wanted to tackle this topic for a long time and was finding ways to get to it without people getting the wrong message or even upsetting those that love their kids, as I have no doubt that we all parents love our children. Here we have another paradigm shift in thoughts moving away from the conditioning of the past and we faced with another cognitive dissonance. I challenge you to hear me out before jumping on the bandwagon of emotional reactions.

Before we continue, for those that have not read my introductory post on Life Learning, go here http://pragashnienaidoo.co.za/2017/02/23/142.  This would give you a better understanding of the direction I am approaching the topic of Unconditional Love, Trust, and Respect.

If we look at the development of a child from in utero, we the mother [and father] take care of ourselves, make sure we are well-nourished and keep our baby safe from any harm by not risking harm to ourselves, but baby in utero develops naturally and learns basic instinctual stuff like thumb sucking in the womb, it is a reflex reaction. Baby is born and we continue with the unconditional love and give baby a safe environment, checking on her/him, changing diapers, feeding and nurturing, going on his/her demands and cycles (well not in all cases as a lot of parents have got schedules to feed their kids and right here is a great example of conditioning already taking place). And if you analyze this, babies bonding time is during feeding time mostly when newly born and we have already put a condition on this. Bonding equates to love, is how baby perceives it. Does this mean there is a schedule to the love and schedules are conditions?

Yeah, so we do this entire but then something changes as baby changes and grows and the demands may or may not get greater but then here is what we are conditioned as adults to believe; we are conditioned to believe that in order for our child to learn we need to start having conditions in place, like the way we had when growing up. We are led to ‘believe’ we taught our child to crawl, walk and talk which are reflexive reactions anyway, so we need to teach the child what to do when to do and how to do it.

Let us look at this term Unconditional Love: Unconditional love is known as affection without any limitations or love without conditions. This term is sometimes associated with other terms such as true altruism or complete love.(Wikipedia)

Now let us try to explore where this all started, the conditions on love and why I believe it is a wrong thing for parents to say “I love my kids unconditionally” as it is not a reflection of what we actually do. I think it starts with us, our own conditioning and what love supposed to look like. We may feel staying in an abusive relationship, as an example because it is ok to be beaten up, verbally abused and its likes and you deserve this so your love becomes conditions. He hits me because he loves me. I love him unconditionally so I stay with. How often do we get people saying “If you love me unconditionally then you will buy me……or cook me…… or come with me……?” Unconditional love starts with yourself; it starts with your own self-worth. Ok, so I am probably using quite a drastic example but every little expectation placed on someone daily is an act of conditional love being perceived as unconditional love because we were conditioned to believe this. You never know what love is, until you truly love yourself and then only you can truly love another.

Our kids start developing and they feel the love of their parents, but then parents start putting conditions on things and the baby/child starts wanting to please the parent as they equate it to if mom and dad are happy means I feel loved. It really is quite a tricky thing, I may add. It is not simple to identify in yourself and your relationship with your child. And honestly speaking I am challenging you to broaden your mind and think out of the box like I mentioned in my introduction.

Please do not mistake this for not putting safety measures for your kids. But even too much of ‘safety measures’ can hinder a child’s growth. Example “don’t climb that stair, you will fall” placing fear in the child may hinder his natural instincts to explore. Another topic for another post.

I believe we love our kids unconditionally when they are born, but it changes over time. Our kids are taken care of when they are little but as they grow older and develop their own identity, which they already have BTW just we find the need to give them an identity to suit what we feel is best for them. The conditions on love get larger as they get older.

If I can explain what does Unconditional Love means to me then possibly you would get a better perspective of where I am coming from. For me to truly unconditionally love my child is to leave my child to develop at her own pace and time and to create a safe space for her to continue her development, for me to leave her to have the rights to her own body, mind and soul, for me to love her EXACTLY how she is, for me to truly understand what TRUST and RESPECT means for my child and largely for me to trust myself so she can be a free person in mind, body, and spirit. My children are born from me, but they are NOT me. We are just the caretakers to making sure their basic needs are met and they are kept [mostly] safe (safety measures are also debatable). In doing so or being this way with my kids, they have the rights to their OWN body and they are able to set and push their own boundaries for themselves.  It is also NOT enforcing MY BELIEF (religion) system on him. Yes, another touchy subject, to explore, but I think it is such an essential one as doctrines generally come with their own conditions of love. This is what unconditionally loving my kids’ means to me.

I can never just talk about unconditional love without addressing Respect and Trust. I like to laugh when I think about the things we were told when growing up, and one of them is, we need to respect our elders. I often just find that so funny. I still hear it every now and then and mostly I do not say anything as I just don’t like confronting people head on (that is why I started blogging, to share my ideologies and opinions in a non-confrontational manner and create conversation in a practical and intelligent way). So tell me again, why do kids have to respect their elders? Just because they are older than us or just because they said so? I often find that people get challenged by my kids just having an opinionated conversation and they get accused of being disrespectful. Respect works both ways, period. Kids learn by example, so if you do not give them respect how are they expected to reciprocate it? You need to respect them as you would respect any other adult or individual. Respect breeds Respect.

Trust I often find that, trusting ourselves to trust our kids is the most important aspect of trust. This also ties back to unconditional love. Trust your child to grow, trust your child to make mistakes, trust your child to learn from his mistakes (and not at the first time either), and trust your child to face challenges. Trust your child to be himself and if he ‘messes ups’ (there is no messing up in my opinion, but you can avoid large chunks of it if you just unconditionally love your child in the first place), YOU LOVE HIM/HER anyway! YOU NEED TO TRUST YOURSELF.

Here are some of the factors that chip away the Unconditional Love, Respect, and Trust.

SCHOOLS

The first problem I have with schools, we claim to love our kids, but yet we are willing to leave them almost the whole day with a stranger we have never met. Talk about the safety of our kids. I do have regrets of sending my older son to school when I did not know home-schooling was actually an option 15 years ago. A school is a curse and plays the most important role of chipping away into our kids’ self-esteem, confidence, respect, trust, and unconditional love. We put our kids together with other kids and expect them to perform at high levels on all levels, academic, social and creative. They only ever get 45 min in total to play with friends. And my favourite for those that do send their kids to school, oh they play in the class and they do lots of creative stuff and they are free to roam about freely in the class but when this, this and that subjects are taught they are expected to sit down and learn (and I say this with much respect but need to mention this as to make my point and MY thoughts on the subject and by no means expect every parent to be like me). I do not even want to begin to talk about how teachers complain about a child that does not sit down to learn “straight to the Ritalin and off with their heads!” Every child is different yet every child is faced every day with the decision to be better than his classmate to feed the extravagant award system we have in place for our kids. And our kids may associate this with love, “if I do this properly then I would be recognized and loved.” Schools are another whole topic and I cannot cover everything in this post. Schools need to change to Life Learning Centres and we as inhabitants of this earth need to see the urgency of this. Schools are killing our kids and yet no one is doing anything about it. It is indoctrination and still very much part of industrialization. The following points fall under the school system but are extended from the home of the child.

DISCIPLINING YOUR KIDS

There is no such thing as a naughty child but there is definitely an inquisitive child. We were spanked when we did anything ‘naughty’ when we were growing up and I know how demeaning and hurtful it can be, emotionally specifically. You chip away at the child’s confidence and self-esteem again and equating love to punishment. When I had my first son, I chose to be different but even my ‘different’ methods when I look at it now is emotional blackmail and emotional abuse. A simple thing as putting a child in the ‘naughty corner’ can be devastating for a small child that is predisposed to be a sensitive child. Put yourself in your child’s shoe before exercising any methods of discipline. I often get parents asking me, but what if he doesn’t listen and is now a delinquent teenager. Go back to step one, where did it all start? Have you created a safe and conducive environment for your child to grow and explore on his own? Have you given your child an example of how to be as there is no use instilling all these disciplinary actions on him or her when you yourself drink every weekend? Is being delinquent a way of asking for love and the only way he seems to get the attention he needs is from being destructive? I know it may not be in all cases as there are always exceptions to the rules. The other question you should ask yourself, will you go put an adult in a naughty corner for back chatting? Back chatting really is a very mild example but you would never swear, hit, scream, and shout at another adult, so why do we do it to our kids? Are they not people too? Where are the Unconditional Love, Respect, and Trust in disciplining kids?

REWARD SYSTEM

The reward system speaks for itself. ‘I get things for doing great stuff.’ Maybe that is the problem with the world, creating greed from reward systems. From all that I have explained so far, I am sure you have already deduced [hopefully] that the reward system is a big fail the three factors represented here. Get 100% in school and you get a reward for it. Get abused by a child abuser, it is ok; he has rewarded me with a sweet. I am sorry but this is the extent our society has taken things. Of course, according to psychology, there are many benefits of the reward system but it only works if the CHILD himself immerses himself in it for HIS OWN personal growth.

RELIGION

This will not fly very well with most religious people and that is ok. I understand every household is different and we all have an idea of what a balanced lifestyle looks like. But unfortunately, religion and doctrines do not fall under the umbrella of Life Learning or abides by the 3 precepts; Unconditional Love, Trust, and Respect. It is NOT child reared or interest-driven. It is very much parents and family rules and regulations driven. A child does not need to be indoctrinated by fallacies and what your concept of spirituality is. He will explore this on his own; it is very personal to him. If he decides to follow you in your footsteps, he should do so, as long as it comes from him. Religion has so many fears and so many rules about what unconditional love, respect, and trust looks like. ‘Sure, let’s trust the Catholic priests with our sons, which should turn out just fine!’  ‘Let’s be really great citizens and God will love us and send us to heaven.’ Doctrines are the worst suppressants of emotions that I have ever come across. There is no room for expression nor, is there no room for growth as we all need to be and do well all the time, so our next lives will be better. So tell me again why we can’t leave our kids to find the path that fits them. Oh, wait! We love our kids and we do not want them to be damned to hell. There is that condition right there!

EXPECTATIONS

I think expectations are probably one of those things that nobody is really aware of but is there and it also ties in with all of the above. We expect our child to walk by a certain age, so we push our kids. We expect them to do well in school so we put rewards and discipline in place. We expect our kids to do a lot of things but yet they must be punished for a lot of things they don’t do.

I believe many of our problems eating disorders like anorexia and obesity, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, premature sex and much more stems from the simple fact that we do not Unconditionally Love, Respect and Trust our kids. And I know many of you may say, but I do have all of this 3 qualities for my kids, and I believe you, but you would need to have all of the above conditions removed to really experience and fully be aware of what it is really like to bask in the glory of kids and watch your masterpiece unfold without any interference, placing it in the right environment to blossom naturally.  It really is a work of art.

A flower never thinks of competing with the flower next to it, it just blooms AND when the flower does not bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows not the flower. (Author unknown)

I would like to conclude by saying, I am still learning and by no means the perfect parent, but I do have to mention that my kids are free kids, free to be themselves most importantly. Whenever I knew better, I strived to accomplish better. I think there may be more factors but I think the others may stem from these sources.

 

PEACE

P.N.

 

 

 

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Many Moments

Many Moments

 by

 Pragashnie Naidoo


She was broken, broken in a way that the stitches crisscrossed each other leaving no space for anymore mending. One more tear in her fragile yet tough heart will leave a hole that could not and would not be mended. Her heart was always exposed. If anyone could make broken look beautiful, it was her.

Her looks did not give up her age, but the darkness under her eyes revealed much of the trauma she weathered over the years. Maybe the natural highlights on her straight black hair exposed her not so youthful side but her light brown eyes were childlike and vulnerable. Vulnerable not in a way where she was oblivious to what was out there, vulnerable being a choice to be able to absorb and understand the external world around her. It was the only way she knew how to be. Any other way would destroy the true essence of her soul. She did try to be otherwise once, but the desolation was too much for her to bear.

The story of her life danced in her eyes, switching through the many scenes as the film reel rolled through the events. As you delved further into them you would get to go behind the scenes, to the eyewall of the cyclone, where the torment of her lacerations resided and as you are hauled in further into the eye of the cyclone you get to meet the grandest version of who she really is. The stillness and the calm are extended to all parts of her from here, connecting to her heart, making it the strongest connection by far.

She stood still for many moments, with each moment illusory lasting longer than the one before. Her pupils joined the dots unswervingly to his. He did not break that channel; he would not dare for the gun was an appendage of his arm.

She has never met him before this, yet she wore his familiarity on a daily basis since she made contact with him. She knew his reasons for being here. Taking back the land was paramount to him even if it meant war and killing. Justice can be served in many forms. She was infatuated by his revolutionary ideals. They made him come alive and brought out the passionate silent activist in her, which she kept to herself, mostly.

The effects of the past had permeated him, leaving scars that cannot be forgotten or forgiven. They shared the similar amount of scars, just his ran deeper and darker leaving wounds exposed and not mended like hers. His world wore blinkers like hers wore rose colored glasses. She obsessed about him and even played around in her dreams on how they would meet and work through the pain; the pain of removing the rose colored glasses, the pain of discovering the truth, the pain of getting hurt by her own kind. She wanted to stitch his heart, from the depths to the surface of the wound, to mend it, to make it know what love is, making it whole. Love is kind and forgiving.

The black and red lines in the Iris of his eyes pranced around each other swapping between fear and anger. He was not expecting to meet her like this either, yet he had no choice but to do what he had come here to do. Black First Land First (BLF) movement was his life and this is what he has been trained for. He will not let his people down.  He is not Nelson Mandela, who fought for everyone’s equal rights. He is here to fight for what was stolen from his kind, which was his equal right. Her life will be sacrificed in the name of Azania. It was the only way he knew how to be.

Zooming into the memory of the torments of his childhood, he heard the brown–skinned-ones-with-straight-hair mock him.

“Kaffer boy! Twisted brain! Steel wool Head!” they cruelly teased.

The brown–skinned-ones-with-straight-hair kicked his mother in the liver bringing her down to her knees, discarding the scraps on her in metal plates and cups only worthy for dogs to savage. His mother’s hands were craggy, with years of laborious endurance, as she held him close to her bosom and rocked him, feeding him African lullabies of the earth, expecting somehow this to fill his tummy.

“Thula thul, thula mama, thula sana,” she sang, while he slowly chewed the half eaten rat bitten scrap piece of bread given by the brown-skinned-ones-with-straight-hair, as this is the only thing he will eat today. Tomorrow brings the same ordeal if they are lucky.

Integration of the races was supposed to be seamless. The school was supposed to be a place of learning, growing and gelling with fellow citizens in a newly democratic South Africa.

“The first act of racism we encountered was not with the umlungu but was with your kind, the brown–skinned-ones-with-straight-hair,” he told her over the phone.

Not all were brown skinned and not all have straight hair, but they came from the same place across the sea.

He helped her remove the rose colored glasses. He did not care at that time, so it wasn’t removed gently. As it was yanked off she felt the pain ripping a ladder through her heart and no amount of clear nail varnish could stop this ladder.

She wept for the torture they had endured from her own kind. She wept because she could not understand how the oppressed could oppress. She wept for what her father fought for side by side, unaware there were different kinds, as they all fought the same fight. She wept, because how could she not have known this.

Mostly she wept for him.

She fell to her knees and begged for forgiveness on behalf of her own kind. She fell into a peaceful slumber only to be reminded of the truth with the sun’s rays screaming in through her bedroom window.

She knew it was not personal but she still felt the detriment.

How can they say or think that about her? How did they not divorce her individuality from the brown-skinned-ones-with-straight-hair? How can they not see she is different from her own kind?

The sound of smashed glass, gunshots and frantic screams outside in the distance brought her back in the now.

The intoxicated comforting odiferous molecules of the petrol reached her olfactory system.

His adrenaline spiked and dropped back down, in a quick pulse, making him keep control of his autonomic nervous system. There is no room for fright and flight when you are the killer-shooter.

His eyes mirrored the darting flames through the open door behind her.

His calm was different to hers. His calm was the calm before the storm.

She took one of her moments to study his face. He was ten years her junior, but anger and fear grew on his 30-year-old face. He had a distinct scar, the shape of a thinner, waning crescent moon. It sat very snugly right underneath the arch of his right cheekbone.

“It was one of your coolies that came towards me with a screwdriver,” he specifically told her when they first spoke.

“We will take back our land and rid the land of you and the mlungus,” he chuckled.

The scar reflected silvery black with the dim down lit office. She wanted so badly now, to reach out and touch his scar like it was a doorway to something special like it held the secrets of the deep-seated non-tangible scars.

He looked at her as he softened his gaze and hastily pushed the softness away. He refused to feel anything other than anger for her. The reasons for his anger towards her had evolved over the course of the year. He no longer was angry with her because she was a brown-skinned-one-with-straight-hair, but he was angry with her for making him feel the way he felt, for making him see the world larger than life, for making his heart swell with sweetness. Little sugar granules dropped in the crevices of his vile heart mending its way up to the surface, turning into a sweet sticky syrup of love. His anger built up more when he saw her now because he will not let down his people and will not surrender to his heart.

“Gaz,” that was what she called him for short, “I understand what you are going through. It is only through this understanding from a deep place within me, from my true self, abandoning the want to be right, for it is what it is, can we move forward. Remember, Ubuntu. I am not me without you. We are each other. Your pain is my pain. I am what I am because of who we all are. Your world has joined mine and my heart has more room for more world”.

She heard the click followed by an engaged tone on the phone. That was the last she heard from him, that was two months ago. She understood him. She understood his actions. She understood his world. She understood where he came from and where he was going. She never always agreed with him but her heart understood. She knew if she did not open her heart up to him, he would be lost for eternity.

She stole a few moments before the last to break the silence lingering between them now.

“Gazini,” she softly spoke his full name.

Abruptly, she heard the cock of a gun and then felt something placed at her right temple.

“This is the brown-skinned-one-with-straight-hair, eh Gazini?” the guy next to her snorted. “What are you going to do about her, eh?”

Gazini stood still lending his eye to center its interest on Shaka, still fixating his gun towards Nyssa.

“Move out of the way, Shaka,” he calmly responded. “I’ve got this one!”

“Sure Gazini? Does not seem like it from here,” sticking the barrel end of the gun further into her temple.

“Of course! Of course! Now move away so I can finish this one up and disappear,” he said with concealed emotions.

His impatience made his hand quiver unnoticeably.

Before returning his focus to Nyssa, Gaz swept his eye from toe to head taking her all in and landing his eye back on hers. When he re-engaged, he saw something that he did not see in these many moments that passed.

She had let go!

Her face gleamed with content and her eyes twinkled from her heart. She has already forgiven him for what he is going to do because she…

There was only one bullet that left the barrel. There was only one bullet that was in the gun. It had her name on it.

She fell to the ground, as he heard the stringed syllables vibrate through the air into the sound of “I Love You, Gaz.”

She lay still for many moments.

He stood still for many moments.

A good few million many moments in the future they will look back at this day and recall how their hearts stood still in the same moment on the timeline, to beat as one, just before Shaka hit the ground pulling her with him. They will remember how the pool of blood became increasingly redder and covered more surface area under Shaka’s body with every tiny moment. They will remember how Gazini turned on his own kind to bask in her love.

They will also find moments to forget all of this, in each other’s embrace, and know that there is no ‘type of kind’ but only kindness and ultimately a love for humanity,  as we all bleed and we all bleed red.

 

This is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © Pragashnie Naidoo 2017
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Vegan Hot Cross Buns

Hot-cross buns!
Hot-cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot-cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons;
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot-cross buns!

 

Ishtar (Easter) is around the corner. I do not celebrate Ishtar/Easter but do often like to indulge in the hot cross buns that are associated with Ishtar/Easter, so I took advantage of this and decided to play around with my own vegan version of the hot cross bun. It was also a great way to get the baking energy going in my new home, 2 weeks after moving in. Please excuse the photography, as I am still in the process of finding my feet in my new home so I somewhat eagerly took out the photos without checking back on it and of course the rest is history. To add to it, my new, old oven needs some getting used to and waiting for the landlord to sort out, which left my hot cross buns a tad burnt on the underside. The texture is on the dense side, which I have not even perfected yet in normal bread rolls. Leave the entire nitty-gritty aside and the proof is in the pudding. These tasted divine, though next time I will not be afraid of adding too much spice and all things nice.

The recipe (I adapted this recipe from a non-vegan recipe) did call for 1 teaspoon Mixed Spice I did not have Mixed Spice readily on hand when making this recipe so I just improvised the following.

1/4 tsp ground All Spice
1/4 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground Nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground Clove
1/8 tsp ground Coriander
1/8 tsp Ginger

So if you have Mixed Spice on hand then just use 1 tsp of Mixed Spice.

Time – approx. 2hrs
Serves – 12

Ingredients

Buns
750g or 6 Cups Bread Flour
90g or 100ml Solid Coconut Oil
1 tsp Mixed Spice
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Himalayan Fine Salt
Pinch Elachi
60g or 1/3 Cup Muscovado with caramelized sugar
150g or 3/4 Cup Dried Fruit Cake Mix
25g or Tblspn finely chopped Mixed Citrus Peels (Orange, Lemon, and Lime peels)
Grated Rind of 1 Lemon
10g Instant Yeast
Orgran equivalent to 2 eggs or 3 Tblspn vinegar
300ml of warm coconut milk or any non-dairy milk of your choice.

Crosses
1/2 Cup Plain Flour
1/4 Cup Cold Water

Glaze
2 tsp Castor Sugar
2 tsp Boil Water

 

Method

  1. Rub the Solid coconut oil into the flour to represent bread crumbs.
  2. Add in all the other dry ingredients.
  3. Mix the Orgran equivalent to 2 eggs (skip this step if using vinegar).
  4. Warm the Milk slightly and add the Orgran to it (add vinegar if you not using Orgran).
  5. Make a well in your dry ingredients and pour the milk.
  6. Mix well and knead dough for 5min.
  7. Cover airtight and let rise in a dark warm place for 45 min.
  8. After 45min punch air bubbles out and knead the dough again for 5min.
  9. Divide into 12 equal portions and roll each portion in rounds.
  10. Place in a greased baking tray equal distance from each other, cover and let rise in a dark warm place for another 45min.
  11. Pre-heat oven 200 Degree Celsius.
  12. Mix Flour and cold water to make a thick paste.
  13. Slightly cut crosses on the hot cross bun and put the paste strategically on the crosses. You can use icing pipe to do this but I do not have one.
  14. Bake for 15-20min.
  15. Mix Castor Sugar and Water and brush onto hot cross buns just as they come out of the oven.
  16. Let cool and enjoy them with Vegan margarine or Jam or just on its own. Simply Divine.

PEACE

PN

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What Is Life Learning

We are all born with the gift of learning, which is instinctive and intuitive. A simple action of a baby sucking their thumb in utero is proof of the natural learning process. It does not happen by accident either, as research has discovered that baby in utero is anticipating the thumb entering his mouth so he opens his mouth before he can actually stick his thumb in it. Every moment a baby is in utero time is taken up by growing, developing, learning, and changing. There are numerous things a baby learns in utero, deciding which sounds, smells, and tastes they like without much influence of the outside world. This is naturally continued after you are born until the outside world tells you differently.

I played classical music for both my kids when I was pregnant with them, but it did not make them necessarily love classical music later on in life after they were born. This shows that we are all born with this individuality and of being different and when not tampered with we can decide for ourselves, our likes and dislikes and what is best for us as an individual.

I am always amused as how parents tend to take credit for teaching their kids to walk and talk.  No one teaches us these fundamental developments through different stages of our life. Like in Utero they learn at their own pace. What babies do, though, is mimic their surroundings and learn through their six senses with their sixth sense being instinct/intuition.

Humans have a natural curiosity to learn so we develop physiologically, psychologically and intellectually. Learning is a natural side effect of all human activity and is self-initiated and self-motivated. We learn in different ways and develop differently from our peers and at different rates in all areas of our life. So why are we put in a box and forced to learn the same way as everyone else?

Another astounding humorous human condition is, we spend the first two years of our child’s life encouraging/waiting for them to walk and talk and the next 16 years of their life confined to a box where you have to shut up! Sit still! And Listen!

Take a few moments to digest this…….

As parents we love unconditionally, trust and make sure our kid’s basic needs are met. We create a safe environment for them and mostly keep them protected from harm’s way.

What happened to these essentials, unconditional love, trust, basic needs, and security?

Unconditional love is something we stop having when we start having expectations of our children and base their lives on a reward system for ‘Good Behaviour’. Yes, I know, you probably going to lash at me for undermining your love for your child, but I challenge you to think deeply about this, about what unconditional love actually means?

What happened to those first few years where we trusted our kids to learn and grow at their own pace?  What happened to TRUSTING our kids? Trust stops happening when we start telling them what to do!

Basic needs go beyond just shelter, clothing and food. We have taken away their basic need to just play. We have taken their basic need to explore and have confined them to 45min break for the entire day.

Then we have taken their sense of security away by leaving them with some stranger they do not even know, for most of their waking time very early stages of their life. BTW – This stranger we trust, but goodness forbid if we trust our own kids!

I want you to take a look at these two photos. One is childhood in a modern day school gathering of kids and the other is childhood and child labour in the industrial revolution.

 

If you see a difference in these two photos then I challenge you to stretch your mind and explore the idea of the similarities of these photos. I can see the difference in their physical attire, but I see no difference from a psychological and soulful (mental) point of view. Children where slaves to the system then, and are still slaves to the system now!!!

Everything else around us has evolved

Telephones have evolved to cellphones and our mode of transport from the horse and cart has evolved too, possibly be introduced into the market in the near future, the Uber self-driving cars.

So why have we not evolved from schools to learning centres that have all the resources for our kids to self-direct their learning and spend more time free playing? Why haven’t we evolved from teachers to facilitators? Why is our schools been run by adults and not adults and the children? Why is democracy not displayed with our kids? Are they not the future of our world? So let me get this, we want a democratic world but will not exercise this democracy with our own kids? Charity begins at home or should I say democracy begins at home!

Let us hop onto those hobbies we/kids have, (DO NOT let go of them). Hobbies are 100% interest driven and generally it takes a back seat because there are more ‘important’ things, dictated to you, that need to be done, before we can actually sit down to do something we truly enjoy. If you are enjoying something, does it mean you are not learning? Sadly, it is the disease of our society to make you feel guilty about enjoyment.

The good news is we have started revolutionising the way we interact with young people. There are growing numbers of families who have recognised and adopted the life learning philosophy. Many more are considering this way of life. Not only is it practical, it eliminates the consumerism of education and exposes the debt trap you are handed over once you have graduated.  These parents are identifying that children have an innate curiosity and intuition to learn without the boundaries implicated on them in traditional school systems. It is also recognised that standardising a child is ludicrous, as no individuals are the same. So sitting in a classroom learning the exact same thing as your peers, who are the exact same ages as you, to produce the exact same results is definitely absurd. Life Learning appreciates that you learn differently from your peers.

So what is Life Learning?

Life learning is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. In other words, trust your child!

Commonly known as…

Unschooling, Free Range Learning and other tags.

Life Learning has been a personal journey for my family and me.

We had our minds expanded to levels that we did not even think was possible. We eventually unwound the fear and slowly peeled away the layers of indoctrination and beliefs of we need someone to teach us in order for us to learn. We started enjoying the wonderment of life curing the disease of we are not learning if we are enjoying something. We got to experience the true meaning of living in the NOW! We take a topic that interest us and are able to delve into the depths of it and dissect it to our hearts content until we feel we have absorbed everything about that topic, without having to worry to waste a minute on anything else.

The depth of conversations I have with my own kids, I have never in my entire life have had with any adult, up to date! I rejoice in the uniqueness in each of them and love watching them being who they truly are. By the way, deep and profound conversations about life and all that is, is a natural almost daily or weekly occurrence in my home.

What happens when we bring our kids up with trust and unconditional love?

  • They get to be WHO YOU REALLY ARE.
  • They will become independent individuals who know what is best for them.
  • They will become Masters of their own Mind, Body and Soul/Heart
  • They will create their OWN boundaries and likewise push their OWN boundaries
  • They will carry this Life Learning Thinking throughout their life as they will know learning is a by-product of ANY activity.
  • They will begin to discover their own personal potential.
  • They become passionately involved in what interests them.
  • They will expand their mind to understand that a graduation is not a destination
  • They will experience joy and happiness more, as they will be doing more of what they enjoy opposed to being forced to do what they don’t enjoy.

The beauty of Life Learning is, it can be adopted at any age from in utero till end of your life’s journey.

We live in the digital age of Information with the World Wide Web at our fingertips so it does not make sense for schools anymore. There are many Massive Open Online Courses and a Tuition-Free University, where you can learn just about anything for free.

Alison.com, EDx, Coursera, Youtube, khan academy, Free Code Camp, University of the People, to name a few of these online resources.

Swaraj University in India is a Life Learning University. Their students design their own learning for two years and are helped to be placed in the practical work place to learn and build their own portfolio.

Schools in Finland have done away with homework and exams till kids are well into their teens. Sudbury, Waldorf and Steve Jobs Schools are alternative systems that allow for child-directed activities.

Big Organizations, such as Google and EY, are beginning to change the way they view education. They have started to employ interest driven people rather than someone that has just finished their degree.

This article is just the broader aspect of what Life Learning is. I will be tackling more detailed experiences and topics in future blogpost.

PEACE

PN

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