Decolonizing Education in Africa

Publié le par hort

http://nigeriaworld .com/articles/ 2008/may/ 213.html

DECOLONIZING EDUCATION IN AFRICA

Osondu Jude Nzekwe
jdnzekwe@yahoo. ca
Saskatchewan, Canada
Wednesday, May 21, 2008

After decades of securing political independence from their erstwhile colonial masters, most African states continue to use Western education system as the yard stick for defining their education system. African leaders and their education policy makers after independence simply adopted Western education system with its intolerance of African values hook, line and sinker. This did not only deny the young generation Africans of the rich patrimony of their cultures, languages, religions, and traditions but also made them to despise those who still practice them. This is a big disservice to the African students who emerge from the schools as giant trees without roots.

In the world declaration on education for all (EFA), adopted in Jomtien, Thailand, the world community called for learning environment in which everyone would have the chance to acquire basic elements which serve as a foundation for further learning and enable full participation in society. This implies that education should reflect the realities of the students' world while helping the students to make meaning out of it. The experiences student bring with them as they come to school determine to a great extent the way they look at things and not to acknowledge them under any guise is to deny them opportunity for authentic learning.

Ngugi wa Thiong'o recalls vividly those evenings of storey telling around the fire side in the "Decolonization of the mind" and how children could retell those stories to other children who may not have been around when they were first told. The stories made more meaning because they were told in the language of the immediate environment which was also the language of the fields. Sadly, however, Ngugi noted that as he went to school, a colonial school the harmony in the language was broken. The language of his education was no longer the language of his culture. English not only became the language of his formal education, but also the language and all the others had to bow before it in deference. What the Berlin of 1884 effected through the night of the sword and bullet according to Ngugi is now being re enacted through the morning of the chalk and the blackboard. In the classrooms Africans were made to understand and accept the inferior position of their culture and other values in relation to the almighty Western education. This paved way for the wholesale transfer of the educational conventions of Europe into Africa as superior and absolute.

Education whether by formal or informal means has functioned as a means of socialization both in Africa and elsewhere. African cultural practices before the advent of Western education had been used to teach, perpetuate and transfer ideals, values and philosophies of African people from one generation to the next. The young has to be protected and preserved culturally and socially by being socialized into the life of the elders if the corporate identity of the group will not be lost. Through folklores, stories, proverbs, idioms, plays sometimes presented in musical forms and other practical demonstrations, the young child gradually grows into adult life immersed in the culture of the society.

With the influx of Western education into Africa via the vehicle of colonialism, a new era dawned. The function of socializing the young that had been the exclusive reserve of parents and other relevant adults slips away to the schools established in Western tradition. As the curricula of the Western education do not reflect the African culture and tradition but that of Europe, young Africans through the schools were automatically socialized into Western life and culture. This socialization of the young Africans in the name of education has had the negative effect of robbing them of the rich patrimony of African life and values. Through such socializations young Africans in the schools have learnt to regard whatever is African as inferior and backward while whatever is European right or wrong as superior and modern. This has created cultural identity crisis in young Africans who have been stripped of their African roots and yet are not able to be absorbed totally into mainstream European culture. Since the school has taken over the function of the socialization of the young Africans, it is only reasonable to argue that education in Africa be de-colonized, if African children will grow to be relevant in their society.

To be sure, serious conscious efforts have been made to evolve a system of education in Africa that will have close relationship between school and life in Africa. But despite all these efforts, education in Africa still largely follows the curricula of European education.
The reason may not be far fetched. Even though official political colonization has ended in most African states, a subtler and more insidious type - Psychological colonization - still exists. The wound inflicted on the mind of the African by colonization may have healed but the scars continue to be there. This has resulted in the crisis of African confidence. Africans no longer believed that they have anything worth while to offer. They must look elsewhere – West - from where their help must come if any meaningful development could ever be achieved. No wonder then the following of the European curricula in their schools even when such curricula had long been discarded by the Europeans because they alienate students and stifle critical and creative thinking. This type of education which neither acknowledges the African reality nor encourages critical thinking and problem solving only prepares African children for the white collar jobs which may not be within their reach.

It is one thing, however, to decry the colonial system of education in Africa and another to begin to develop a system of education in Africa that will address the problems of Africans from the perspectives of the Africans. Africans must come up with a new type of education that will make the students to understand their world and assume their place in it. The first most important step in this process of indigenization of education in Africa is the rescuing of African languages which had suffered death blows in the face of the language of the colonial masters. It is through language that a people articulate its philosophies, knowledge and values. The project of investing on Africa languages is urgent especially as
Westernized African elites are not only shunning the African languages but are also refusing to teach it to their children. Education in Africa must recognize the importance of indigenous languages in the development of thought patterns and issues of national development.

Ngugi wa Thing'o by beginning to write his novels in the Gikuyu language (an African language) has demonstrated that African languages can talk about anything in the world. This is important because Macaulay in his rather "infamous" Minute although talking with particular reference to the Indian language but by inference other languages not of Western origin had suggested that it will be difficult if not impossible to use the vernacular dialect as a vehicle of instruction in science or literature. The rich patrimony of African cultural heritage must not be neglected in the school curricula as they have educational value.

Education policy planners in African schools have a big challenge facing them today. They are expected to modify the Western educational curricula prevalent in most education systems in Africa to reflect the various experiences that shaped the Africans. Africa is a large continent with vast and rich cultural heritage which can be employed in the search for the ever reoccurring problems of humankind. Western education is based on the conventions of the West. Why then are the conventions of the Africans not considered useful enough to form the basis of education in Africa? The cultures of the Africans may seem "naïve" to outsiders but they make meaning to Africans and therefore should be included in the school curricula.

In proposing this indigenization of education in Africa, we are not as naïve as to be saying that education in Africa must be of Africa, by Africans and for Africa. What we are arguing is that more spaces need to be created in the education curricula for the African students' social and cultural experiences to feature in the school landscape. We totally acknowledge that we live in a world that is becoming a global village which requires African students to be abreast with what is happening in other parts of the world. Education in Africa can be planned in such way that it produces true African students who can live and work in any part of the world without losing their African identity.

  

Straight talk from Hort

Something must be done about the educational system in Africa. I was absolutely horrified to peruse the history book that 10 year old children in Gabon were using last year in their school. First of all, the Jewish story is taught as a historical fact when no Western country would dare teach this falsehood in their schools, much less print it in their history books since they know it is a myth, yet they do so in Africa. Secondly, the story of the Romans and Greeks takes up several chapters while African civilizations are reduced to short paragraphs and some are not even taught at all. These are some of the indignities that African children and African people have been subjected to for centuries and that is why it is so urgent for our people to stop participating in their own denigration and self destruction.The history book of course had been printed in France and that's where the problem lies. Africans must start printing their own books and telling their own story. We must stop being naive by expecting our oppressors to tell our story correctly.

 

http://network. nationalpost. com/np/blogs/ toronto/archive/ 2008/05/21/ tdsb-gives- final-approval- for-afrocentric- school.aspx

TDSB gives final approval for Afrocentric school
Posted: May 21, 2008 By Barry Hertz
Politics, Education
By Natalie Alcoba, National Post

The Toronto District School Board debated last night a host of measures aimed at making schools safer, and gave final approval to establishing an Afrocentric elementary school in North York by 2009.

Trustee Stephnie Payne called the safety plan unveiled this week in response to the school shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Manners “a watered-down document,” which she said lacked community consultation. “I understand the Manners family was not pleased,” said Ms. Payne. “How do you expect to get buy-in from the community... . If there is no community consultation?” And she expressed concerns about promises for a “police presence” in schools, which she said would make students afraid to attend.

Gerry Connelly, director of education, said Toronto police have committed 30 additional officers for public and catholic schools — not to patrol the halls, but to “work with schools” and build trust.
“We know the community is sick of consultation. They want action,” Ms. Connelly said. The plan calls for training an additional 140 staff in anti-racism and equity in education course, recruit more mentors and the creation of “safe spaces” for young women to find support in schools, among other initiatives.

Trustee Chris Bolton said the plan was “an honest” response to a January school safety report that exposed alarming levels of gun, and sexual violence in Toronto high schools.
“Is this a perfect document?
No. Is this the end? No. This is the begining,” said trustee Cathy Dandy.  The safety plan also calls for other supports — including social workers, attendance counsellors and psychologists — to work with marginalized youth.

The TDSB committed to addressing underachievement among all marginalized and vulnerable students back in January, when it voted to open the city’s first Afrocentric public school amid a fierce public debate. Proponents pitched the school as a way to reduce the staggering number of black youth who drop out of the public system and insist that it will offer a more inclusive education to children of all ethnicities. But critics, which included some prominent black Torontonians, said the idea smacked of segregation and would do more harm than good.

Yesterday, trustees were set to vote on a plan that would see the first Afrocentric alternative school open in Sheppard Public School, near Downsview Park, in September, 2009, for JK to Grade 5.It would also commit to expanding to Grade 6 in 2010, Grade 7 the next year and Grade 8 by 2012. The board also asked staff to come up with a “feasibility study” for a high school — but decided against commiting to a opening it up by September, 2010. “The disengagement faced by black students in out system does not end at Grade 5,” said trustee Shaun Chen. “I don’t know why we can’t do two things at the same time,” said trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher.

 

 

 http://www.thestar. com/comment/ article/426713

Africentric schools deserve a chance


Barrington Walker
May 19, 2008


The Toronto District School Board, after deciding to vote in favour of an Africentric school this past February, is now considering a proposal to expand this program to the high school grades. As both a black Canadian and a scholar of black Canadian history, knowing what I know about the struggle to open up the schools to our children, I have strong reservations surrounding this current turn of events. With the exception of a short-lived (and remarkably similar) project in the 1970s in Toronto and a handful of Africentric schools in Nova Scotia, what has recently transpired ignores the lessons of history and seems to fly in the face of a long civil rights struggle.

My strong reservations aside, I am ultimately willing to support this idea.
Why not give it a try? It is far too easy for the middle class – blacks and non-blacks alike – to dismiss this initiative. The black working class and underclass generally do not have the material resources to cope with a system that is at best unsympathetic toward their children and often overtly hostile. With the dropout rate sitting at 40 per cent, desperate times call for desperate measures.

If middle-class Canadians of whatever background faced this kind of dismal dropout rate among their children it would be denounced as a national tragedy – a crisis. And no government, neither provincial nor federal, would be allowed to stay in power. Where is the outrage for the children of the black underclass and working poor, the so-called "at-risk" youth in today's jargon?

In light of the TDSB's February vote and this latest proposal, proponents of "black-focused" or "Africentric" schools have been on a roll. Their momentum has been growing, even with rising concerns that the proposed site of the primary school, an underused wing of Sheppard Public School, might be "only half a school." Positions on these schools remain deeply divided. Champions of the Africentric schools have looked to their opponents with suspicion and scorn and they, in turn, decry the lack of alternative proposals within existing schools.

Outside of the community, many Ontarians look on with suspicion and a palpable sense of unease at the question of black-focused schools. Some have even taken offence at the very idea. This is an indication of the triumph of the liberal ideal of racial tolerance. After a very long history of racial exclusivity in this country, this is not something that should be taken lightly. It means that many of the gains of the civil rights movement of the mid-20th
century have taken firm root.

Critics of these pilot programs are justifiably suspicious. Historian Kristen McLaren tells us that on the question of their children's access to the province's common schools in the 19th century, black parents declared: "We have no desire to be set apart." They mobilized to fight against the exclusionary application of the Common School Act for Upper Canada in 1850, which allowed black and Roman Catholic parents the choice of opening their own schools.

Clearly the system is not working for this group and simply maintaining the status quo will not do. In Kingston, Ont., where I currently reside and teach, the many penitentiaries that call our city home are full of black male dropouts from the TDSB. Many critics have loudly and uncharitably pointed the finger at root causes such as the black matrifocal family, absentee fathers and a culture of criminality, none of which have merit. Surely we have to look at the public school as an institution that has spectacularly failed this group.

Setting aside schools for some of our children has invoked much hand-wringing in the mainstream culture. Much of this is not out of any genuine concern for this group, but rather what it signifies for a pluralist ideal of Canadian society that is under intense pressure and perhaps in retreat.

The broad liberal post-war consensus has not worked for much of French Canada, nor First Nations peoples. Black activists, parents and academics who have been fighting for this project represent yet another threat to the liberal consensus that seems to be coming apart at the seams. That this is of little concern to the champions of this issue is not at all surprising.

Barrington Walker is an assistant professor in the Department of History at Queen's University where he is also the Diversity Adviser to the vice-principal (Academic).

Publié dans education

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