For purpose of this article, African people refers to individuals of Sub-Saharan African descent, including those born in the African continent and in the Diaspora. Therefore, this article is focused on African-Americans, Afro-Brazilians, Afro-Cubans, Angolans, Bahamians, Cameroonians, Chadians, Congolese, Haitians, Jamaicans, Kenyans, Nigerians, South Africans, Tanzanians, Zimbabweans and so forth. Blacks who live in Belgium, Britain, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and other parts of the world are also included. The reason is that due to conquest, subjugation and colonialism, black people throughout the world seem to suffer from racial and cultural identity problems emanating from educational systems that belittle their existence and self-worthiness. On the other hand, the Arabs of Africa are excluded from consideration here since they do not suffer identity problems as much as black people. The reason is that the Arabic point of view is well articulated globally through Islam while the Black African point of view is denigrated, condemned and rejected globally. It should not be forgotten that Islam is embedded in the Arabic culture, hence, Islamic names are basically Arabic in nature. Similarly, Islamic writing is taken from the Arabic style of writing. Thus, to be a Moslem is to be familiarized with the Arab culture, to a large extent.
Dr. Carter Woodson, after carefully observing the manner in which blacks in the United States were being educated, noted:
Real education means to inspire people to live more abundantly, to learn
to begin with life as they find it and make it better, but the instruction so
far given Negroes in colleges and universities has worked to the contrary
(Mis-Education of the Negro, p. 29).
Apparently, this article is motivated by Dr. Woodson’s Mis-Education of the Negro, after carefully observing the manner in which people of African descent are educated, socialized and almost psychologically programmed to reject themselves. The motivation resulted in the writing of The Mis-Education of Ijaw People which eventually materialized into the present work on the African people.
The Goals of Formal Education
Universally, there is a tendency for people to associate formal education with the attainment of knowledge. This is why it is often assumed that those who have successfully completed their higher educational studies are knowledgeable. While it is true that formal education is the roadway for acquiring knowledge, it is not always the case that formal education is as important as it is made or presumed to be in acquiring and advancing knowledge. The reason is that the formal educational system can be very subjective due to the socializing role that it plays in training, socializing, and programming people to embrace certain beliefs, values, norms, concepts, and practices while rejecting others.
Evidently, it is arguable that about 60 to 70 percent of the contents of the formal educational curricula are designed for the propagation of certain philosophical, cultural, religious, psychological and political points of views and practices while only about 30 to 40 percent of the contents are dedicated to the advancement of true knowledge. By implication, this means that most people who go through the formal educational system, anywhere in the world, receive extensive dose of propaganda and not true or comprehensive knowledge. The reason is that in almost every country, it appears that the formal educational system is strategically designed to accomplish five basic goals. The first goal seems to be the socialization of the citizens to whole-heartedly embrace the culture, beliefs, and values of the society, as well as the national identity. The second purpose of formal education seems to be the fostering of literacy (reading and writing). The third goal seems to be the advancement of critical thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving skills. The fourth goal is directed towards the acquisition and advancement of specialized skills for various occupational fields in society. The fifth goal is focused on producing an enlightened civic-minded citizenry with depth of character and leadership skills that are essential to function effectively in the global society.
Due to the socializing role that education plays in inducting citizens to embrace the values of the society, a large portion of the contents of the educational curricula, starting from the primary school and ending in the university, are intentionally designed to deprogram students psychologically, religiously and socially to reject certain beliefs, values, norms and practices that are inimical to the strategic interest of those who wield political power and the state or society. At the same time, the curricula are intended to program students to embrace certain beliefs, values, norms and practices that enhance the strategic interest of those who wield power and the state or society. This is why formal education is very subjective, even though professionals in the field of education might argue otherwise. As a result, students who studied in Russia or in the United States of America are extensively indoctrinated to embrace Russian or American ways of thinking, looking at things and doing things. The same applies to students who studied in Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, China, India, Argentina, Mexico and forth. Similarly, individuals who attend Christian or Islamic-oriented schools are very much likely to think in the Christian or Islamic manner. The same applies to students who attend Buddhist or Hindu-oriented schools.
Due to the subjectivity, despite the level of education, a considerable number of formally educated individuals seemed limited in their understanding of other countries, societies, cultures, and religions, despite the internet revolution in communication technology. This accounts for why many educated people in the West, Asia, and Latin America have very little knowledge of Africa and the African people and vice versa. It could be said that quite a sizable number of people in the West believe that Africa is a jungle. Similarly, a sizable number of people in the world tend to assume that Africans live with wild animals. Likewise, another sizable number tend to assume that Africa does not have large modern cities. Additionally, a considerable number of people in the world tend to assume that most Africans are nomadic and roam about hunting lions and other wild games. They have no understanding that Africa is developing and modernizing at a frenetic speed. They are not aware of the fact that an increasing number of Africans now live and work in the cities. As a result of the ignorance, despite the level of education, many people in the world assume that Africa is a single country rather than a continent. This is why sometimes the question is asked, “Who is the head of state of Africa. Even Western journalists tend to equate the African continent with a single country. This accounts for why whenever there is a conflict in one spot, they generalize the information as if the conflict is engulfing the entire continent. Similarly, whenever there is an outbreak of a medical emergency in one country, the information is reported in the global media as if the entire continent is afflicted with the problem. They forget or are not aware that Africa is huge because it is the second largest continent in the world.
On the other hand, many Africans tend to believe that there is no poverty and suffering in the Western world. As a result, they assume that as soon as one gets to the United States or France or Italy or Britain or Germany or Russia or Belgium, the person would become prosperous and happy. This is why many African people risk their lives to go to Western countries. Thus, Malians, Chadians, Nigerians, Cameroonians, Congolese, Nigeriens, Senegalese, Malawians, Jamaicans, Haitians, etc. risk their lives to take very risky boat trips across the seas to get to Spain
, Italy, France, Britain, the United States, Canada, Belgium and so on and so forth. Even though the assumption is false, the belief is that as soon as one gets to any Western country, life would be automatically enriched. If formal education were objective and educative, such ignorance would not have taken place globally. In other words, formal education has not contributed to the cross-cultural, political, economic and geographic understanding of the world, in any significant manner, despite the massive growth in information technology. Apparently, the more things change, the more they remain the same, as far as cross-cultural understanding is concerned.
Generally, countries that are able to effectively use education to shape the national character of their countries are able to achieve national integration among their citizens much better than countries that are not able to shape the direction of their educational curricula. Apparently, the Americans, English, Chinese, Russians, Germans, French, Israelis, Japanese, Spanish, and so forth, identify strongly with their countries because their educational systems are designed to socialize them to develop strong attachment to their countries.
On the other hand, most Africans seemed weakly attached and integrated with their countries. The reason is that of the five goals of education identified above, countries associated with the African people (those in the continent and in the diaspora) seem to feature less successful in accomplishing goals #1 and #3. In other words, African countries do not seem to focus their attention in using education to socialize, integrate and develop common national identity among their citizens. Secondly, they do not seem to do very well in using education to instill critical thinking and analytical skills among their students. Thirdly, African countries do not make a determined effort to include African cultural, historical and religious studies in the educational curricula, hence, many African youths complete their secondary school education with little or no knowledge of their own cultures and religions. Additionally, Africans in the Diaspora face discrimination in countries in which they are categorized as minorities. Even in a country like Brazil with a large black population, African people are marginalized and live at the periphery of society. This, perhaps, is a major contributing factor toward the uncritical adoption of foreign ways by black youths.
The reason why Sub-Saharan African countries are less successful in socializing and molding their citizens to embrace a common national identity is most probably due to the fact that their formal educational systems were imported and imposed on them during Islamic and European colonization. Unfortunately, after independence, most of the former colonies did not carry out major changes in the educational curricula of their schools. As a result of the failure, they continue to propagate the ideas, concepts, beliefs, values, norms and practices that tended to promote the colonial agenda instead of the strategic interests of their new countries. This is why the formal educational curricula in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the African Diaspora do not foster recognition and appreciation for African cultures, beliefs, values, norms, history, politics, and religions. Neither do they raise appreciation for African achievements and contributions to the world. This is a contributing factor toward the tendency of many educated Africans to reject or feign ignorance of their own cultural, political, and religious practices. It also contributes to the tendency of some educated Africans to mimic other peoples’ cultural and religious beliefs, values, norms and practices.
Since it is inferable that African countries have the least successful educational curricula, they tend to suffer the most from national identity crises than other countries. The frequency of conflict in the continent is a testament to the fact that these countries have not been able to mold their citizens to the point of integrating them through education to accept a common national identity. The failure seems to contribute to the perpetuation of tribalism, personalism, regionalism, and religious polarization that tear people apart, instead of uniting them. Consequently, many post-colonial African countries are two-headed religious entities with Islamic predominance in the northern regions while Christianity dominates the southern regions. Quite often, the traditional religions are suppressed or maligned. The Central Africa Republic is the latest victim of the continuing disintegration of the colonially-induced African states. Likewise, barely a year after the South Sudanese supposedly liberated themselves from the Republic of Sudan, they are already engaging in self-destructive behavior due to personal and tribal politics. Despite vast resources, Nigerians can’t really seem to get their acts together because of lack of appreciation for themselves and their cultural world. The Congo basin is one of the richest parts of the world, yet, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is mired in conflict, thereby, pauperizing the citizens and the sub-region. While the Congolese fight, destroy and kill each other for groundnuts, others accumulate the wealth that emanate from their territory.
A major reason why many formally educated Africans feel uneasy embracing their traditional religious cultures is attributable to the fact that Sub-Saharan Africans (blacks) were subjected to two forms of conquest, namely, Islamic conquest and colonization and Western conquest and colonization. Consequently, the formal educational systems established during the colonial were focused on reading, writing, arithematic, and religion. The religious component of the education was concentrated on Islam and Christianity. Thus, the curricular promoted rejected African cultural beliefs, values, norms and practices while encouraging the unquestionable acceptance of Islamic and Judeo/Christian beliefs, values and practices. On independence, the post-colonial African governments continued to maintain and perpetuate the colonially-motivated curricula. On the other hand, most Africans in the Diaspora (US, Canada, Brazil, Cuba, Peru, Argentina, Britain, Colombia, Chile, France, Belgium, Venezuela, etc.) are in countries where they are politically powerless to influence the establishment of educational curricula that reflect and reinforce their cultural heritage and perspectives, hence, also suffer from cultural emptiness as their brothers and sisters in the continent. Consequently, even in the twenty-first century, Sub-Saharan Africans throughout the world continue to receive formal education that is loaded with information designed for the strategic enhancement of other cultures while denigrating their own histories, cultures, religions, and achievements.
The trend towards the denigration and rejection of African cultural beliefs, values, and practices and achievements began incrementally with the Arab invasion, followed by Alexander the Great’s conquest of Egypt and continuing with Emperor Justinian prohibition of the Egyptian Mystery Temples that propagated both mystical and scientific knowledge. This was later followed by Islamic and European/Christian invasion, conquest and colonization.
Based on the discussion above, the following arguments are made concerning the mis-education of African people: 1) African people are mis-educated to reject themselves and their cultural heritage; ( 2) the current educational systems perpetuate amoral behavior and practices that foster undue materialism, consumerism and corruption; 3) as long as African people continue to maintain and perpetuate existing educational systems, there would never be stability and technological progress in the continent and in the African diaspora; 4) due to the propagandistic nature of the formal educational systems in the black world, foreign cultural beliefs, ideas, concepts, terminologies, event
s, and practices are introduced and espoused through the educational systems without providing the political and historical reasons and the potential implications; and 5) due to mis-education, a substantial number of African people are not aware of black contributions to the world.
These factors contribute to the reason why many formally educated African people (both in the continent and in the diaspora) tend to regurgitate instead of critically analyzing information. They quote the Bible and the Koran, yet, do not have the cultural, political and historical facts that would have enabled them to understand the implications of the information they regurgitate. Consequently, it is maintained here that in order to understand Christianity and Islam, it is necessary to study the cultures, histories and the politics which led to the formation and spreading of the religions. The mere reading of the Bible and the Koran is not sufficient to provide the facts necessary to understand the religions.
1. African people are mis-educated to reject themselves and their cultural heritage.
Dr. Woodson wrote:
The “educated Negroes” have the attitude of contempt toward their own
people because in their own as well as in their mixed schools Negroes are
taught to admire the Hebrew, the Greek, the Latin and the Teuton and to
despise the African ( Mis-education of the Negro, p. 1).
Thus, there is ample evidence to support the view that African people are educated and socialized culturally, politically, psychologically and religiously through the formal educational systems to reject their own cultural beliefs, values and practices while unquestionably accepting the beliefs, values and practices of other societies and cultures.
a. A large proportion of African people (Kenyans, Ghanaians, Chadians, Cameroonians, Mozambicans, Angolans, Eritreans, Somalis, Nigerians, Congolese, Jamaicans, African-Americans, Ugandans, Tanzanians, Haitians, Bahamians, and so forth) now claim to be either Christians or Moslems. This confirms the argument that African people are subjected to other religious cultures. Otherwise, a large segment of a particular race would not claim allegiance to religions that came to them through military conquest and colonization. Indeed, it is illogical for people to identify so strongly with religious systems that came through forceful imposition.
b. A large proportion of African people tend to believe that they would go to heaven because they are either Christians or Moslems. This possibly accounts for the enormous devotion, including even killing, that some Africans have shown in demonstrating their allegiance to their adopted religions.
c. A substantial number of educated African people tend to reject their traditional religious beliefs, values and practices because they have been trained and socialized through the formal educational systems to believe that African traditional religions (Ancestralism: the worshipping of God through ancestors) are bad, devilish and satanic. This is why people react without thinking as soon as they hear the word “Voodoo” or “Rastafarianism” or “Orukarism”. It appears that due to psychological conditioning, a substantial number of educated Africans do not even make the effort to study and understand African cultural beliefs and practices before jumping to condemn them. They probably react in such a manner following the years of cultural deprogramming done through classical and operant conditioning methods in the schools.
d. Due to a propagandistic education, African religions are viewed as devilish and satanic. Similarly, they are identified with sorcery and wickedness. The fact is that in every society and in every religion, there are those who do good things and those who do wicked and ungodly things. Consequently, sorcery exists in every society. Similarly, in every religion, there are individuals who engage in sorcery and other wicked and ungodly things. In fact, the history of Christianity and Islam are filled with instances involving massive destruction, killings of people and pillaging. Despite the historical facts, it is only the African religions that are branded as “ungodly”. Many, if not most educated Africans, buy into this falsehood and shy away from associating with their religious cultures. This is why throughout the world, only the religions that are associated with the African people that are condemned for being “devilish”. Many do not realize that traditional African religions have strong moral codes that condemn evil and other wicked acts. Generally, African religions frown against the violations of the moral codes, those who violate the sacred laws, otherwise, known as taboos are expected to confess and engage in ritual cleansing in other to purify themselves.
e. Whenever any individual engages in an evil or wicked act at the traditional African level, the traditional religion is blamed for being evil but when a Christian or a Moslem commits an evil act, the individual is blamed but not Christianity or Islam. Therefore, only African religions suffer condemnation for the wicked behavior of individuals throughout the world. The truth is that wickedness takes place in every society, not only in African or black societies.
f. Almost all countries associated with black Africa have political and governmental systems that have no bearing on the cultures of the people they serve. As a result of the fact that European/Western countries have political systems with political parties, almost all African states have political parties. Due to the fact that European/Western political systems are based on winner-takes all, all countries associated with Sub-Saharan Africa have political systems based on winner-takes-all. This forces individuals, political parties, ethnic and religious groups, and regions to compete fiercely, in a do or die manner, to win. It leads to massive rigging of elections, imposition of candidates, bribery, use of threats and violence and corruption of the entire political system. The inappropriate political models adopted from other cultures create perpetual political, social, spiritual and psychological conflicts in the black world.
g. Almost all countries associated with the African people operate legal systems that are borrowed from other cultures. Due to the fact that European/Western states have legal systems that are based on the view that “the individual is not guilty until proven guilty”, almost all African countries too have legal systems based on the same idea. Due to the fact that Western legal systems are predicated upon the presentation of physical or strong circumstantial evidence, almost all African countries have similar legal requirement. Due to the fact that European/Western legal systems require lawyers to be involved in the prosecution of a case, almost all African countries now have lawyers practicing law. In the Islamized parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, Islamic law takes effect. However, traditionally, justice in the African world requires the demonstration of good faith, the search for the absolute truth, confession, and reparations. It also requires that justice be based on the verification of the absolute truth and fiarness. Unlike the Western legal system, traditional African concept of justice requires contacting higher authorities if humans are unable to ascertain the absolute truth. This is where African mysticism plays an important part in determining the absolute truth. Thus, in the West, a case can be dismissed for lack of a convincing evidence, even though the accused actually committed an offence. In the African world, the absolute truth can always be verified even if there is no physical or convincing circumstantial evidence to show that a particular individual committed a crime. In the West, justice is partly an economic enterprise, hence, financial investment in hiring the best lawyers is cru
cial in winning a case while in the traditional African concept of justice, the law is not an economic enterprise but a means to ensure fairness, equal treatment and social and spiritual harmony. Unfortunately, the traditional African law which is regarded as “customary law” is relegated in the judicial system.
h. Culturally, black people are very spiritual due to the theocratic nature of their religious cultures. This means that Africans generally do not separate faith from reason since both are needed to arrive at the absolute truth about any matter. On the other hand, in the Western legal systems, absolute truth is not necessarily the focus of justice. Rather, legal technicalities matter as much as the truth. As a result, sometimes, innocent people are sent to prison due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. At other times, false evidences are planted to incriminate or free someone. In addition, an accused can be set free due to legal technicalities even though the person is actually responsible for committing a crime for which he/she is being charged. The Western legal system is lopsidedly in favor of the rich and politically powerful individuals while tactically penalizing the poor and the uneducated. The traditional African system treats everyone equally since every member of society is answerable to the ancestors and higher authorities. If an individual lies, he or she is expected to swear in the name of his/her ancestors to confirm whether the individual is telling the truth or not, regardless of the level of education or social status in society.
i. The educational systems transplanted to Africa through Europe and designed for African consumption are based on secular humanism. Secular humanism is based on the belief that humans have the intellectual capability to make rational decisions that best serve them, therefore, they do not need a higher authority or a final cause to lead them. Thus, secular humanism nullifies the belief in a higher authority and makes man the center of every activity on earth. It gives man the power to make and un-make and to try to control nature. It treats the human species as the most superior entity on earth and reduces every other creature to a secondary status. Secular humanism, is contrary to the African belief that due to the limitations of human nature, it is necessary to consult with higher authorities (God, gods, goddesses, spirits, and ancestors) in order to determine the absolute truth about any matter. This is why in almost every African ethnic group, when humans are unable to arrive at the absolute truth, they contact higher authorities through divination. Secular humanism nullifies the need to seek the absolute truth through rational logic and influence peddling.