The arrow of time is always delving deeper in us, constantly forcing us forward, and in any story, time only flows when the story is told. The arm of time is always ticking to the beat of change, and change is as constant as time. We should move along with time, and not be swept along by the tide of time.
The essence of education in all societies is to prepare individuals to be useful and effective participants in their society. It prepares youths to be active and productive members of their societies by instilling them with the necessary skills and talents from an early age.
Koma Kenneth stated that education is everything that prepares the young people for either integration in a given specific society to perpetuate the established values and norms of such society or transform and changing such values and norms.
While Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere defined education as the transmission of accumulated wisdom and knowledge of the society from one generation to the next and also to prepare the young people for their future membership in the society in which they find themselves.
Thus, the African educational system, “it takes a village to raise a child” concept, the education, knowledge, skills, and attitudes were passed from generation to generation mostly orally, and training was done by example in most African societies. In essence, the training was done directly, formally, indirectly, or informally by the family members, kinships, village groups, and the community at large participated in the educational and socialization process of the child.
And no matter how old we are, we are a product of the community that raised, trained, supported, and helped shape the way we see the world from childhood. For that reason, western education has limited values compared to being educated in the “it takes a village to raise a child” concept and the values inherited from them. That is why the concept it takes a village to raise a child is very crucial in African societies.
Therefore, the African concept of it takes a village to raise a child-focused on producing a well-grounded, skillful, accommodating, and civil adult capable and able to contribute to the development of the community at large. As a result, the concept of education was never a colonial invention in Africa. Rather, training systems existed in Africa long before the intrusion of the rogue colonizers.
Magnus Bassey posited that the African training was very practical, those who took to fishing were taught navigational techniques like seafaring, the effects of certain stars on tide and ebb, and migrational patterns and behavior of fish. Likewise, those who took to farming had similar training. Those who learned trades and crafts, such as blacksmithing, weaving, woodwork, and bronze work, needed a high degree of specialization and were often apprenticed outside their homes for training and discipline. On the other hand, those who took to the profession of the traditional priesthood, village heads, kings, medicine men and women diviners, rainmakers, and rulers underwent a long period of painstaking training and rituals to prepare them for the vital job they were to perform.
The African system of education emphasized practicality, social solidarity, equal opportunity for all, homogeneity with culture, and religion-focused, which were later destroyed by the introduction of western theoretical education that impedes Africa’s development.
“If you can control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one” ― Carter Godwin Woodson.
The later introduction of western education excluded; African languages, history, cultures, religions, and lifestyles in their curriculums. And practicing African cultural lifestyles or languages were discouraged or punished in those institutions.
Early churches discriminated against and discouraged the use of African names for baptism, forcing Africans to take biblical names for baptism, indirectly vied that African names were not Godly enough for Christian Salvation. White missionaries consistently preferred biblical names, and that they (Africans) stopped using an individual’s given or non-Christian name after their baptism — Katharine Gerbner. Likewise, traditional beliefs of naming ceremonies were frowned upon.
Unfortunately, decades later, Africans now mimic these behaviors in their institutions and at homes. That is why it is not surprising that the younger generations of Africans can hardly speak in their mother tongues.
Regrettably, and so far, 52 languages (Wilkipedia, 2020 & UNESCO) are extinct in Africa. Foreign instructional languages and religions introduced by the colonizers (western educational subjugation and negative attitude towards own languages) were the leading contributing factors to these losses. Therefore, the extinction of any language is not the loss of spoken words. Instead, it is the loss of self-identity, cultural, historical, linguistical, and psychological.
Baffoe, Issah, and Amoah, Anthony Kwaku noted that Ghana had made concerted efforts to prioritize the use of indigenous languages in education. On the other hand, Mako Muzenda posited that South Africa’s proposal to teach students Mandarin has not been well received. Instead, there was a call for more focus on indigenous languages, which have been neglected by the education system. Despondently, Zimbabwean primary and secondary schools planned on introducing more foreign languages: Mandarin, French, and Portuguese into the education syllabus, instead of indigenous languages. Liseli A. Fitzpatrick put forward that language is the main conduit that transports cultural expression and marks one’s identity.
Thus, the further introduction of more foreign languages instead of indigenous languages in the school systems must be challenged and frowned upon, it will undoubtedly further exacerbate the extinction of more languages, if not checked. If this trend continues, Africa will deliberately seek more foreign gods to worship due to its “enclosure of the mind” syndrome. It should be noted, that the introduction of more foreign languages to the school systems is not limited to these few countries mentioned above.
That is why, if the elders leave you a legacy of dignified language, you do not abandon it and speak childish language — Ghanaian Proverb. In short, western education is culturally biased that it makes Africans consider their cultures and languages along with their history with a disdainful and shameful attitude.
Dr. John Henrik Clarke acknowledges that to control a people, you must first control what they think about themselves, and how they regard their history and culture. And when your conqueror makes you ashamed of your culture and your history, he needs no prison walls and no chains to hold you.
According to Vanqa Tembe, basically, training was intended to enable an individual to play a useful role in society. Education was seen as a vehicle through which western cultures can be fostered or promoted in the African continent by its colonizers. Western education was meant to reinforce the colonial conditions by inculcating the values of colonial society and training individuals for the service of the colonial state.
The colonizer’s unfamiliarity with the diversities of Africa’s culture, training, and religion, they viewed any practices different from theirs as inferior, barbaric, and degraded these practices as witchcraft, devil-worshiping, and heathenism. As a consequence of their close-mindedness and superiority complex, they sought to convert and then exploit Africa.
Bartolomé de las Casas was part of the early conquistador of the Indies. Later, became reformed and a strong advocate to stop the Christian dehumanization and violence against the Inca Indians. Bartolomé de las Casas enumerated the account of the colonial destruction of the (Inca) Indians in his most influential writings the Brief Report on the Destruction of the Indies (1542). The conquistadors’ excesses reflected the reasons why the Christians killed and destroyed such an infinite number of souls (Inca Indians) because of their greed for gold and their desire to enrich themselves within a short time. Bartolomé de las Casas emphatically vied that Christ did not come into the world to die for gold.
That is why dehumanization and colonial violence in Africa intertwined with Christian intrusion.
As a result, the word “colonization of Africa” is a conjuring word for masking the disorganization, and dehumanization of Africa. And it should be called by the rightful and detrimental word association, Dehumanization of Africa, instead of colonization of Africa.
Research and studies indicated that the mother tongue (thinking language) is the best instructional language, an enabler that facilitates better learning, understanding, and transfer of knowledge. Despite these indicators, the colonizers discouraged these enablers and facilitated the self-destroying behaviors.
The colonizers’ intentional miseducation had a devastating effect of the psyche of Africa, particularly the confusion of six foreign instructional languages, excluding Arabic; English (20 countries), French (20 countries), Portuguese (4 countries), German (3 countries), Spanish (2 countries), and Italian (3 countries). Useless instructional languages on the continent that excluded Africa’s heritage.
However, a subtle indirect emphasis was placed on religion to manage the conscience of Africa, to be forever subservient to the colonizers’ interests on the continent. And Africa, sheepishly took the bait with the hope of heavenly salvation, when the colonizers did not believe in their own god.
With reference to Dr. John Henrik Clarke’s famous quote on religion, “anytime someone says your God is ugly and you release your God and join their God, there is no hope for your freedom until you once more believe in your own concept of God”. Thus, when others impose the image of their deity upon you while you abandon your Gods and accept theirs, you inevitably become their spiritual prisoners.
The introduction of western education was to reshape Africa for government control, religious mission, and economy in favor of the colonizers. Therefore, making it possible for the newly educated African elites that would later become leaders of the church, commerce, industry, and politics, their future masked indirect instruments of change. Bishop Jordan, J. P. Shanahan the head of the Holy Ghost Fathers in Eastern Nigeria in the early twentieth century, acknowledged that those who hold the school hold the country, holds religion, hold its future.
Thus, western education and religion were subtle key elements in masking class and race superiority, used to manipulate, dominate, and oppress Africans.
Western education was also designed to instill foreign cultural values, and Africans were craftily manipulated to abandon their own cultures, history, education, languages, and traditions. And unfortunately, Africans did not understand that the colonizers did not only colonized people, but they also colonized the interpretation of history itself and was rewritten to favor them at the expense of other people.
Yet, culture is the product of human creativity, imaginative contrivance, the overall concept of self, life, and God, which is uniquely and endemically localized, one’s enthrallment. That is why there is no right or wrong culture, superior nor inferior culture, and every culture has a logic of philosophy guiding it. Consequently, the question is to understand the behavior of the people in that particular cultural space or localities and settings.
What makes one God superior to the other, if the concept of God is exaggerated worship of the cultural self? According to the Cambodian proverb; “Do not take the straight path or the winding path. Take the path your ancestors have taken”.
That is why African culture, in every facet, is not an accident or inconsequential, nor decorative, or the songs as the west contended. Instead, African culture is about the body of moral and ethical values placed on each member within that cultural space. Cultural values do not limit the intelligence and know-how of the people. However, it is the collective strength of the people within that particular cultural space.
Likewise, Africans cherished the inviolability of their culture because the most fundamental aspect of human identity is their culture, a foundational part of the conscious self. Hence, Africans considered their culture a powerful concept of self-identity and self-esteem which should be respected.
Unfortunately, western education and religion infringed on Africanness, with a subtle but destructive scheme, to replace them with western lifestyles and values, which in essence, very detrimental to Africa’s existence.
Culture cannot occur without education, which is the transmission of values and accumulated wisdom of society, while education is impossible without some form of societal culture.
The learning strategies, training, and teaching methods African societies engaged for a very long time were discarded and weakened at the expense of western education.
Furthermore, Apollos Nwauwa argued that, while missionaries used education as an instrument for effective conversion of Africans to Christianity, colonial governments saw education as a means of socially and politically controlling the subjects. In turn, education and religion confused and corrupted the African psyche, as expressed by Chinua Achebe series of books; Things Fall Apart (1958), No Longer at Ease (1960), and The Arrow of God (1964).
That is the state of hopeless disorientation caused by religion and the imposed colonial education. From an African proverb perspective, one who causes others’ misfortune also teaches them wisdom. However, the colonizers left the back door unlocked, with a tool to confront them. The wisdom from the Zambian proverb states that the worlds of the elders do not lock all the doors; they leave the right door open.
Africa’s western education was a catalyst and a perceived contradiction; while empowering in one hand, it became alienating and corrupt on the other. The unintended consequences of western education are the consciousness of knowledge, coupled with access to a vast amount of data (information), unparalleled in the history of mankind. The academic consciousness and knowledge are the tools to challenge the colonizer’s manipulations.
The pandora box was opened with renewed awakening and consciousness, as predicted by Pixley Ka Isaka Seme’s speech, The Regeneration of Africa on April 5, 1906.
Fantz Fanon avers in Black Skin, White Masks that colonizer internalizes colonialism and its attendant ideologies, and how the colonized internalize the idea of their own inferiority, ultimately emulate and speaking the language of the colonizer at the expense of their language, is to appropriate its world and culture. Since language is the carrier and instrument of culture. Thus, racism functions as a controlling mechanism that maintains colonial relations as ‘natural’ occurrences.
Instead, western education, theoretical (memorization without thinking) academics without interrogation or practical, provided the workforce for the continuation and exploitation of Africa’s resources with the help of the pseudo educated Africans. The German educational policy was designed to train Africans as laborers to ensure the regular supply of workers for the colonial system.
Walter Rodney posited that colonial education in Africa was an education for subordination, exploitation, the creation of mental confusion, and the development of underdevelopment; killing the communalist spirit in Africans and replacing it with a capitalistic one, corrupting the mental sensibilities of Africans by providing selective training to fill auxiliary positions in the colonial service, emphasizing vocational rather than a well-rounded education, disregarding the peoples’ cultures in the educational curriculum and fostered the underdevelopment of Africa’s intellectual resources.
For example, Nigeria is a society obsessed with titles, where they are addressed by various titles, such as their college degrees; architect, engineer, nurse, teacher, accountant, chartered accountant, surveyor, barrister, SAN, advocate, Pharm, along with other worthless and useless titles; Sir, Dame, Chief, Pastor, Alhaji, Alhaja, Elder, Imam, Prophet, Mallam, Prophetess, Igwe, Chief Dr. Sir, High Chief Alhaji, Double Chief Sir, Man of God, Merit, MD (not medical), PA, CSO, Chairman, etc., that does not enhance or advance the development of the country. Deplorably, they call their rouge politician(s), excellency(ies). Regrettably and unfortunately, Nigerians are exporting these useless attitudes to pollute other African countries, and hopefully, they will not succumb to these negative behaviors that have no relevance to the development of the continent.
Yet, most of these degrees are not advanced degrees, what a paradox, while Nigeria remains the poverty capital of the world and the number three most terrorized country (Global Terrorism Index 2020). As noted by the Justice and Empowering Initiatives director, Chapman Megan, 1.74% (10.6M) of the 610 million children in the world that cannot read and do basic mathematics are in Nigeria.
A country that imports foreign companies to help develop their infrastructures despite these fanciful degrees and titles. What is the essence or benefits of these fanciful theoretical degrees that do not advance the development of the country? In consequence, these fancy theoretical degrees require foreign partnerships to validate their competencies before they can embark on any major infrastructural developments.
How many foreign countries partner with African companies to develop their country’s infrastructures? On the other hand, Africa is constantly seeking foreign companies to help develop its infrastructures, yet, Africa has thousands of college graduates with so-called technical expertise in those areas for development.
These questions should be subject to investigation; why these so-called graduates are unable to develop their infrastructures independent of foreign companies?
That is why Ali Mazrui hypothesized that Africa produces what she does not consumes and consumes and what she does not produce.
If Africa husbands her resources, she should have changed the trajectory of her western educational systems, and likewise, she does not need loans from any foreign countries or foreign partnerships to develop the continent. Consequently, Africa should start questioning or investigate these fancy theoretical degrees and how it relates to the development of Africa? Or are the answers about corruption and lack of trust in their academic institutions’ proficiencies?
Africa can do better and must do their best. However, if Africa does not change the course of her western education and religion, Africa will jeopardize its Africanness, thus Africa must protect and preserve its culture, and religion. Otherwise, Africa ways of life and the overall essence of what makes Africa intrinsically unique are on the verge of permanent destruction, if she continues on the path of western education without reforms.
And Africa should have listened and taken heed to the preaching and echoes of John Langalibalele Dube’s gospel of self-help and inner change.
Therefore, Africa is a continent where banks destroyed the economy, doctors destroyed health, the government destroyed freedom, judges destroyed justice, politicians destroyed accountability, the press destroyed information, religion destroyed morals and ethics, teachers destroyed education, and university destroyed knowledge.
The politicians are corrupt at will and deluded by their precipitous audacity of impunity, while they are impervious to the misery of the masses.
Why is this education system still acknowledged in Africa? Is Africa proud of this inherited academic system for Africa’s development? And who are the beneficiaries of this current academic system, Africans or colonizers? Why are Africans not enraged and repugnant against the systems (academic and religion) that failed Africa?
These and many other fundamentally intensely critical questions should be asked and investigated after roughly sixty years of the so-called independence in Africa. Therefore, Africa should question the concept of independence, independence from whom, and what? Were Africans not independent before the intrusion of those rogue colonizers?
Freedom is what we do with what is done to us, and man is nothing else but what he purposes, he exists only in so far as he realizes himself, he is, therefore, nothing else but the sum of his actions, nothing else but what his life is ― Jean-Paul Sartre.
Unfortunately for the colonizers, the African race is like an Indian rubber; the harder you dash it to the ground, the higher it will rise — African Proverb.
Conclusively; western education in Africa was designed to indoctrinate and reinforce colonizer’s values and lifestyles while the foci were to prepare Africans for the service of the colonial state. On the other hand, the African system of education emphasized practicality, social solidarity, equal opportunity for all, homogeneity with culture, and religious focus. The damage by the colonial intervention and indoctrination in Africa is so entrenched that the status quo of the colonial interests is still perpetuated indirectly by Africa’s pseudo elites.
Africans have been in denial that western religion and education did not have calamitous effects on the psyche of Africans. Conversely, this western academic system and religion should be challenged and questioned for its practicality and the sustainability of Africa’s development for the 21st century.
Finally, the task for Africa is to collaborate with the academic and indigenous religious communities to research, document, and compile her religiously authoritative texts in a refined form — books, just like other religious books.
Likewise, the academic system should be redefined and reformed, to transform the learning experience that will incorporate a holistic perspective of Africa in terms of culture, history, language, religion, cultural space, and the people into consideration.
Then, Africa will wake up with a renewed consciousness, a long-overdue rebirth in cultures, education, history, languages, and the religions of Africa.
Africa, the motherland of humanity, a gift to the world that keeps giving, and it should be respected honorably by the comity of nations, no matter her state of affairs. God Bless Africa.
Dr. Bamidele Adeoye is a Nigerian research consultant and adjunct professor living in the United States.