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“Education is the passport to our future,” Malcolm X reverberated to the world that statement. Throughout centuries and throughout civilisations we have seen education being implemented in its different manifestations respective of those civilisations’ cultural and social needs. As a by-product, the children who came out of those systems drove their cultural and social heritage forward with considerable zeal that led to the perpetuation of those civilisations.
When one observes the educational institutions of the Ancient Greeks, one is confronted with the type of education that reflected the needs of that society that venerated reason and contemplative thought, which was the basis for its governments. In the Great Civilisations of West Africa, The Songhay in particular, the educational systems reflected those societies need of, first and foremost, to inculcate in its generations the need for moral excellence which was believed to be an important ingredient in a just and harmonious social environment.
All of the civilisations that existed since the dawn of time had this important element governing the scheme of things- an education for its youth that imbues that society’s traditions and values and hence carrying those elements forward to their future generations. When the colonialists started to invade our territories the first thing they did was to dismantle our educational institutions and replace them with their own.
Even though they militarily removed the existing chiefdoms and other local forms of governments they had always faced resistance and hence the need for an ideological ‘brainwashing’ of the African societies which was made possible by the establishment of an education which propagated and promulgated the colonialists values and worldview. The curriculum carried the viewpoints of the colonialists, which did not by any means, reflect the social and cultural heritage of the native peoples. It enforced ideas which indoctrinated the pseudo-inferiority of the black people and geared the populace to the legitimating of the colonial rule.
The colonialists had a reality principle which needed to serve the perpetuation of its power. What they did as Wilhelm Reich in his ‘Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis’ explicates was to bring the proletariat ‘to accept this reality principle’ which means ‘an affirmation of the proletariat exploitation [… ] as a whole. ‘ This process led to the students being made to internalise this reality principle and consequently develop a false conscious amongst the populace of the proletariat’s position in the world around him. By falsifying his conscious activity, as Frantz Fanon says, the black man wears a white mask.
The colonialist’s education teaches him to be non-white is to be inhuman and he wishes to be human. Consequently, he starts hating himself and hence the result is a deeply hammered inferiority complex. Therefore he premises all his principles and self-governing laws as postulated by the white man-explicitly or implicitly. President Nyerere in his essay Education for Self-Reliance stipulated a brilliant theory of Education. He stated that the colonialists’ basis for educating the native people’s was to ‘induce attitudes of inequality’ and the subjugation ‘of the weak by the strong.
‘ It encouraged the individualistic tendencies and instincts. Material success was the major impetus for one’s pursuit and acquirement of education. The end product was an increase in the gap between the rich and the poor, the extreme arrogance of the so called educated and the perpetuation of the class-based differences amongst the masses in our country. Therefore, for we as a nation to build a plausible and well fortified foundation for the youth there needed to be a complete re-evaluation and hence reformation of the educational system and its existing institutions.
With President’s Nyerere’s deep admiration and yearning of implementing socialism, he theorised an educational system which would compliment his much craved dream. Whether it worked or not is a matter of differing opinions. However, with the collapse of socialism and the government’s decision to apt for a more capitalist-inclined economic system in the late 1908s, meant a need for a complete change of ideological necessities that would concurrently complement the new system.
As a result, the education that preached ‘Ujamaa na Kujitegemea’ was surplus to requirements. Contemporary system of education was born. Whether this was done consciously or subconsciously again is of differing opinions. Thus I come to the present. As sad, painful and distraughtful it is to admit we have regressed to the colonialists system of education but in a much disguised form with all its values and worldview being instilled in the minds of the youth. The consequences of capitalism haunt us with this harsh reality.
Imperialism lingers where it often has been in a kind of general cultural sphere as well as its specific political, ideological, economic and social practices. The point I want to make is that neither imperialism nor colonialism is a simple act of accumulation and acquisition but also an enormous effort of impelling ‘impressive’ cultural formations of the so called dominant cultures. And this can only be done through the colonisation of ideas which is achieved through the means of education. As a nation we have capitulated to the so called dominant’s culture educational system.
The by-product is the westernised young men and women coming through the secondary schools and universities. Their worldview is completely western and their thought patterns sadly westernised. Materialism has, at least for now, prevailed in our society as a result of capitulating to a materialistic form of education. What is being instilled in the youth today is not the developing of man’s natural thirst for knowledge but an ideology that education is pursued for one to achieve material bliss and success.
This has bred individualism amongst the youth as opposed to imbuing them with the collective and co-operative inclinations, procreated an incredible level of arrogance amongst the so called educated and perpetuating the increasingly widening of the wealthy and the poor. As Ivan Illich argues students emerge from the educational system with a variety of qualifications, which they believe have provided them with the training, skills and competence for particular occupations. However, ‘the pupil is “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence.
Whatever students achieve in the current educational system only prepares them to become mindless consumers to whom the consumption of the goods and services of industrial society becomes an end in itself. What they fail to realise is that they spend all their lives working for those in control of the means of production and the little they get paid, is given back to their bosses through their endless consumption of goods and services, hence they are enslaved. The philosopher Alfred Whitehead defined education as the transmission of culture to enable individuals to attain a quality of life which is always beyond the mere facts of life.
Contemporary education in our country has evolved to become a mere inculcation of facts, figures and information but makes no effort in trying to make those in education to become better and liberated human beings. This should be the purpose of education. Improving one’s understanding of reality and existence as it truly is. It should be about understanding our true nature as human beings. Young men and women should be encouraged to read which has now become an antithesis as to what young mean and women are all about. Television is revered while reading is frowned upon.
We need to ask ourselves where are we going with this type of materialistic, mechanistic and consumerist society. Young men and women are improving their standards in educational achievement yet there are more ignorant and stupid than the graduates ten years ago. If we are going to take the western archetypes and models of reality, we have to also realise that when they fall down the cliff, we will go down with them unless we change to our own reality which produced great people like Othman Dan Fodio (the great leader of the Sokoto empire) and his contemporaries. The choice is our own. Let’s make the right one.