“Why do some of our people sometimes talk and behave as if they are not educated,” queried the man from the podium, as he addressed his largely West African audience; “Illiteracy, the Bane of Africa’s Underdevelopment,” the international magazine headline recently declared; and according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, as at 2007, only 3 out of 10 adults in sub-Saharan Africa are literate. The above, represent the widespread belief held within and outside
Education ought to empower an individual to master the peculiarities of his surroundings and afford him the tools to improve on it qualitatively. In essence, what might be considered knowledge in a certain part of the world could amount to useless information in another. Take for instance a teacher in faraway northern Nigerian teaching his elementary school pupil under the perpetual year round heat that the four seasons of the year are; fall, winter, spring and summer. The confusion the pupil will encounter is such that will take him a very long time, if at all, to decipher what the word ‘season’ implies, owing to the lack of correlation with his environmental reality. While the example given may seem implausible, such, form the bulk of what is widely disseminated as knowledge in the continent of
Western incursion into
Many generations later, inferiority complex and a passionate disregard for everything African reigns in the subconscious of the average African. Acquisition of western education is equated with the acquisition of common sense and values. People who were unfortunate not to have tarried within the four walls of a school are seen to be of no value to society. African herbal remedies are viewed with suspicion in several quarters, and the younger generations speak only the colonial language and cannot be caught speaking their mother tongue. An African, no matter how brilliant and of good character, who lacks a good command of either English or French as the case maybe or whose fairly acceptable grammar is accented with his local dialect has a much higher chance of finding a decent job in Europe and America than in his own country. But for the wise step taken by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta of
Worse still, are the courses offered within the African higher academic system; Euro-centered disciplines that lack applicability to the compelling needs of the continent and its people. Nothing prepares the African student for the reality he would face upon graduating with a degree in French, English, Business Management, Engineering, Food and Nutrition, Agricultural Economics or Pharmacy, to discover that he is still ill equipped to contribute meaningfully to his society. The fields mentioned are not inherently of no value to
The high drop out rate of pupils in
The vicious cycle of hunger and underdevelopment can only cease when Africans realize that indigenous knowledge, native intelligence, and values are what makes a society grow and not any super-imposed, parasitic and dependent knowledge. Any knowledge that lacks foundation or is completely alien to the culture of a people would hardly engender growth, but rather, it would create some sort of bi-polar mentality, fostering confusion rather than progress. Until the chemical engineering departments of African universities start using local resources as the raw materials for research, the Food and Nutrition department take pride in researching the calorific, nutritional and therapeutic values of African foods, and invest efforts in developing healthy, tasty and endurable snacks that a foreigner can enjoy, and make enquiries as to how to import such into his own country, development and growth would remain elusive to the continent.
The problem is not in the acquisition of western education; the problem lies in the fact that Africans have lost their identity. Like a man in a borrowed suit a size or more too big or too small, Africans continue to struggle in the ill-fitting apparel, pointing accusing fingers, first to the tailor for not being magnanimous enough to make the suit fit a second person; or maybe to themselves for being be too fat and needing to go on a diet, or too thin and needing to gain a pound or two; or could it be the fault of the fabric, but how come it fits the original owner so perfectly well, then? The answer, which Africans have never come to accept, is that the suit does not fit because it does not belong to them. Western education was made to measure for the individualistic culture, the environmental dynamics and the extreme weather conditions of the west. The educational system should be overhauled in a simple and inexpensive re-evaluation of curriculum, process and system carried out by Africans who understand the nature of the issues at stake. A practical combination of African values should be merged with international standards, in order that the continent would not loose out in the era of globalization.
Further, Africans must realize that the acquisition of western education alone, as it were, does not amount to common sense or the ability to be innovative and positively impact society. The emphasis should cease to be on the ability of an individual to express himself in English or French as the case maybe, as that does not remotely attest to one’s brilliance. The fact that an individual cannot handle fork and knife or sit properly to eat at the dining table has no direct correlation to his IQ; enough of the self-hatred and denial. Education is good when it is a product of the immediate environment and ought not to be validated by western culture and educational system. The solution does not lie in looking up to the west but in searching inwards to emerge with something original and authentic that can be explored, developed through R&D and used to foster development at home and ultimately exported. The list is endless; herbal medicine, artifacts, iron and steel products, traditional clothes, folklores, proverbs, cassava, yam, solar energy, dance, music, agricultural practices or movies, to mention but few. Consciously, diamonds, gold, oil and cash crops such as cocoa and coffee have been omitted as those have been manipulatively procured by the west and can only be reclaimed after