Many Africans on the continent and in the diaspora are setting themselves aback. They believe that the only form of education that they need is Islamic or European.Anything indigenous is considered backwards and worthless. For example, in Nigeria, Christians often seek European forms of education and English is their primary language. While for Muslims, they insist that their children must attend Qur’anic school.
The problem with this approach is that, African children from an early age are conditioned to believe they are inferior and nothing good can come from their place of origin.These schools often rely heavily on colonial models, books that are outdated and profoundly racist. As a result many African students upon graduation they are convinced that :
- Africans were in the dark until Christianity and Islam brought light to the continent. African indigenous spirituality that predates both religions are satanic, pagan and simply superstitious beliefs.
- It is African to be violent especially towards women. I have read and debated with both African men and women who expressed such sentiments.
- Ethnic languages are useless. i.e I noticed for many years and it became apparent the last time I was in my home village, Bawagarik in Middle Belt, Nigeria.Young people who spend time in the city, working or getting their “Education,” upon their arrival to the village they exhale air of arrogance that is toxic for many of us concern “uncivilized” people. When relatives speak to them in Yotti/Bali our language, they replied in Hausa or English,even though they were aware that those relatives do not speak English.
- That Africans did not resist slavery and colonialism, because it brought civilization to them.
- Africans do not have the intelligence to build or invent anything.
- Dignified careers are “office” jobs, handy work are inferior, etc.
I am not suggesting that Western or Islamic education are bad. As a people who have for centuries interacted, exchanged ideas with foreigners ( i.e Africans were early innovators of smelting steel, c-section, agricultural techniques etc), traded ( ink, gold, fabric ) and later were violently enslaved and colonized. It is important for us to introduce our students to Islamic and European education. As a people on the continent and in the diaspora we cannot move forward without knowing about our past. Additionally, those that enslaved and colonized us are still benefiting from their acts of violence (i.e.France, Britain,Belgium, U.S. etc), as a result they control majority of the world’s monetary wealth. We must learn their craft combine with our indigenous ideas to protect our lands, create a truly liberated independent African world on the continent and in the diaspora that does not depend on its “former” enslaver and colonizer for “aid” but on African intellect and innovation.
What is the way forward?
We must reorient ourselves by learning African indigenous/village ideas and skills. Below are few ideas:
- Doing things with out hands. We must encourage our youth to be innovative instead of teaching them to memorize exam questions and after graduation they seat at home waiting for a savior. Africa has many “graduates” looking for work instead of them creating work for themselves.
- Group work, we need to teach our youth the value of collaborating with their peers to produce something. A community cannot survival without the participation of everybody. I.e The great wall of Zimbabwe was built by community participation.
- Teach our youth their history at home and in school. This can happen using oral history ( great way to keep their brains sharp ) or written history ( for those whose memory is not that great ). A people that know nothing about their past are setting themselves up for failure and elimination. Here are three examples of how we have failed our youth by not teaching them our history.Genevieve Nnaji a nigerian actress during her interview on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight in Canada, she was asked about her thoughts on Biafara since she was on the movie cast of Half of a Yellow Sun based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book.To the audience dismay Genevieve told the interviewer that she is young and does not know anything about that history, and she added that even though she is from the Igbo “tribe” a group that was central to the conflict she was not informed about that period ( watch the interview below)
Black british of Nigerian Igbo origin, actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, was asked by Woopi Goldberg on The View ( U.S talk show) along side his cast mate Lupita Nyong’o for their roles in Steven McQueen’s movie 12 years a slave, wether they were “aware” of the breath of slavery in America, given they are not African Americans. Ejiofor staggered through the interview, highlighting that to him the storyline is a human story. One can clearly tell that he knows little about his history.
Porsha Stewart (Williams), cast member of The Real Housewives of Atlanta (RHOA) and granddaughter of Hosea Lorenzo Williams one of the well known civil rights leaders. Porsha often brags about her family name, evidently she does not know much about slavery and what her (our) ancestors had to endured. In one of the RHOA episode Porsha insisted to her cast mates ( who are more knowledgable of the history ) that the underground railroad, enslaved Africans used to escape oppression was a real train. ( video clip below)
5. Rites of passage through gender based secret society. Where young people are thought about their sexuality and the importance of leadership in their community. For example Dipo in South Eastern Ghana.
Listen to Mmatshilo Motsei a renowned writer,poet, gender activist & spiritual healer on how village knowledge is important for African development. She talks about finding strength and new meaning in life from rural South African communities.
Saki Mafundikwa founder of Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts and author of African alphabets. Below he talks about little known fact that Africans had writing systems. He teaches this information to his students.
Dr. Ben (Yosef Alfredo Antonio Ben-Jochannan) talks about how African knowledge provides foundation for what we know today as Western Civilization
Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina encourages Africans to “ Free Our Imaginations.” Wainaina is convinced that many Africans especially the “middle class” are limiting themselves, their children and the continent more generally because they believe that success is only possible if Africans approximate white people’s culture.