Ed­u­ca­tion: Will Africa Win the Fu­ture

From the shack­les of colo­nial­ism to the tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances that have pro­jected even the most prim­i­tive who are be­ing dragged onto a dig­i­tal high-speed train, ed­u­ca­tion in Africa has, is and al­ways will be key to so­ci­eties that are to pros­per and be re

Nomad Africa Magazine - - Inside Issue11 - Words: BRUCE GERMAINE

there has been much talk and prac­tice of im­ple­ment­ing Afro-cen­tric cur­ricu­lums, with some ex­perts, not all, ad­vo­cat­ing pro­grammes that em­power African peo­ple, fo­cus­ing in­ward on all things that sur­round us as op­posed to things that orig­i­nate from across the shores of Africa. That con­cept is not unique and many coun­tries, in­clud­ing those out­side of Africa, have adapted their cur­ric­ula to in­clude their own cul­tural iden­tity and ethos.

From the eco-sys­tems of Sil­i­con Val­ley to the slums of Nairobi, and the squeaky-clean streets of Doha, ex­perts are adamant that ed­u­ca­tion as we know it is chang­ing. No longer does a for­malised, struc­tured ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem serve global needs. The game has changed to fos­ter­ing cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion. The game has changed to find­ing imag­i­na­tive so­lu­tions. Panel ex­perts at sum­mits and lead­ing en­trepreneurs have pointed to the sig­nif­i­cance of a lit­tle bit of crazi­ness, adap­ta­tion, prob­lem solv­ing, in­no­va­tion, team­work and dis­rup­tion.

So where is Africa going in the field of ed­u­ca­tion? What kind of ed­u­ca­tion is most suited to serv­ing the de­vel­op­men­tal needs of the con­ti­nent and at the same time mak­ing it glob­ally com­pet­i­tive? How is Africa going to harness its vast hu­man and nat­u­ral re­sources in the di­rec­tion needed, as the Pan-African icon Kwame Nkrumah put it, “To al­low the African ge­nius full ex­pres­sion”? More than 50 years ago, Nkrumah also noted the need to equip stu­dents with an un­der­stand­ing of the con­tem­po­rary world within the frame­work of African civil­i­sa­tions, their his­to­ries, in­sti­tu­tions, and ideas. African stud­ies was com­pul­sory in the uni­ver­si­ties he built in Ghana.

The his­tor­i­cal paradigm

All over the con­ti­nent, gov­ern­ments have ei­ther set­tled with the legacy of colo­nial ed­u­ca­tion or tin­kered with re­form. But one coun­try that is se­ri­ous about chang­ing the ex­ist­ing paradigm to an ap­pro­pri­ate ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem is Uganda.

Bwe­si­gye Bwa Mwe­si­gire, a Ugan­dan writer, lawyer and aca­demic, writes in an ar­ti­cle culled in the on­line me­dia plat­form, This is Africa, about the de­coloni­sa­tion process going on in Uganda. “The African ex­pe­ri­ence has been that ed­u­ca­tion dur­ing colo­nial times was driven by mis­sion­ar­ies. The con­ven­tional wis­dom sug­gests that this was mainly through al­tru­is­tic con­sid­er­a­tions – al­beit racially tinged – to bring light to the Dark Con­ti­nent and en­light­en­ment to its na­tives.”

The lan­guage used was the tongue of the colonists. This western ed­u­ca­tion ex­panded the ba­sic nu­mer­acy of na­tives, in­tro­duced lit­er­acy and in­tro­duced new tech­ni­cal skills. There was the good and the bad. Most African lead­ers, past and present went through a Western ed­u­ca­tion. It was elit­ist.

The pat­tern of brain­wash­ing the minds of Africans to sub­servience was repli­cated ev­ery­where and il­lus­trated in the last African coun­try to ob­tain in­de­pen­dence, South Africa, where the in­fa­mous Bantu ed­u­ca­tion was de­signed to make blacks aspire to be bus driv­ers and labour­ers.

De­colonis­ing the ed­u­ca­tion cur­ricu­lum

On at­tain­ing in­de­pen­dence, some post­colo­nial thinkers and politi­cians em­barked on the de­coloni­sa­tion of the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, to serve the needs of Africans. This has had vary­ing de­grees of suc­cess and fail­ure. Most fail­ures can be at­trib­uted to the colo­nial mind­set of African pol­icy mak­ers and im­ple­menters, fos­tered by the for­mer masters. Ar­gu­ing for the abo­li­tion of the English Depart­ment and es­tab­lish­ment of the African Lit­er­a­ture and Lan­guages Depart­ment at the Univer­sity of Nairobi many years ago, Ngugi wa Thiong’o wrote:

“We want to es­tab­lish the cen­tral­ity of Africa in the depart­ment. This, we have ar­gued, is jus­ti­fi­able on var­i­ous grounds, the most im­por­tant one be­ing that ed­u­ca­tion is a means of knowl­edge about our­selves. There­fore, af­ter we have ex­am­ined our­selves, we ra­di­ate out­wards and dis­cover peo­ples and worlds around us. With Africa at the cen­tre of things, not ex­ist­ing as an ap­pen­dix or a satel­lite of other coun­tries and lit­er­a­tures, things must be seen from the African per­spec­tive.”

Mwe­si­gire notes that in Uganda sev­eral steps to de­colonise the ed­u­ca­tion cur­ricu­lum have been un­der­taken to date. “At present, learn­ers in [classes] Pri­mary One to Three learn about their im­me­di­ate en­vi­ron­ment, through the oral strand. They learn about the fam­ily, the home, school, neigh­bour­hood and sub­county. This is called the the­matic cur­ricu­lum, and they study in their lo­cal lan­guages, with English stud­ied as a sub­ject.

It is at Pri­mary Four that learn­ers tran­sit to study­ing in English. Un­der So­cial Stud­ies, learn­ers are taught about the district in which their school is lo­cated. They learn about its lo­ca­tion, phys­i­cal fea­tures, veg­e­ta­tion, peo­ple, lead­ers, and how to meet peo­ple’s needs in the district. In Pri­mary Five, they look at Uganda, Pri­mary Six, East Africa and in Pri­mary Seven, Africa. There is no doubt that the cur­ricu­lum is very con­tex­tual up to this level.

The text­books in use are al­most all lo-

All over the con­ti­nent, gov­ern­ments have ei­ther set­tled with the legacy of colo­nial ed­u­ca­tion or tin­kered with re­form. But one coun­try that is se­ri­ous about chang­ing the ex­ist­ing paradigm to an ap­pro­pri­ate ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem is Uganda.

cally pro­duced. The text­book in­dus­try in the coun­try is boom­ing be­cause ma­te­ri­als pro­duced from out­side can’t be used to teach the new cur­ricu­lum. Thus, where John Speke would have been praised as the one who dis­cov­ered the River Nile, the Pri­mary Five text­book says that the river was called Ki­ira by the Ba­soga, who live around it, and John Speke was the first Euro­pean to see it.

African-cen­tred ed­u­ca­tion

An African-cen­tred ed­u­ca­tion is de­fined as ed­u­ca­tion de­signed to em­power African peo­ple. A cen­tral premise is that many Africans have been sub­ju­gated by lim­it­ing their aware­ness of them­selves and in­doc­tri­nat­ing them with ideas that work against them.

Be­yond these con­fi­dence-build­ing val­ues, the cre­ativ­ity of the African child must be un­leashed in schools, to cul­ti­vate a fo­cus on solv­ing prob­lems and cre­at­ing, mak­ing and sell­ing stuff to the whole world. For, af­ter all, when the Gross Na­tional Prod­ucts of coun­tries are mea­sured, it is pre­cisely about the har­ness­ing of the hu­man re­sources of that coun­try to de­liver goods and ser­vices. The nat­u­ral re­sources are just an en­abler.

As ideas about the ideal global ed­u­ca­tional paradigm shift like the desert sands of Qatar, so must African pol­icy mak­ers re­think ed­u­ca­tion, en­sur­ing that it is in the best in­ter­ests of the con­ti­nent, and re­sist in­flu­ences and pres­sures de­signed to en­trench a sta­tus quo. Any­thing short of that will be slow sui­cide. That is why there is an ur­gent need for dis­rup­tion in ed­u­ca­tion, and also why team­work in­volv­ing all Africans on the con­ti­nent and in the di­as­pora is vi­tal.

Un­leash­ing the African ge­nius

Let us stop for a mo­ment and look at how in­no­va­tion and tech­no­log­i­cal progress has re­fo­cused our ap­proach to the busi­ness of ed­u­ca­tion. Can it be said that the dig­i­tal age has pro­jected our way of think­ing in a way that many would not have imag­ined half a cen­tury ago?

This im­mense giant leap into the fu­ture some­times passes us by since we are liv­ing and breath­ing it, from sim­ple tex­ting and skyp­ing to print­ing 3 di­men­sional ob­jects, there is no turn­ing back some would say. With on­line in­ter­ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion to tablets at your fin­ger­tips, the busi­ness of ed­u­ca­tion has ac­quired a whole new weapons ar­se­nal that can and should be un­leashed on those will­ing to par­tic­i­pate. In Africa, these in­no­va­tions are hap­pen­ing and many coun­tries al­ready have su­per­fast in­ter­net fa­cil­i­ties, not to men­tion the mo­bile giant that woke up some years ago re­sult­ing in Africa be­ing one of the fastest grow­ing mo­bile phone mar­kets in the world. As the fa­mous ad says – but wait, there is more – the growth has not yet stopped and sat­u­ra­tion point has yet not been reached.

Mo­bile learn­ing plat­forms are play­ing an in­te­gral part in the ed­u­ca­tion teach­ing chain. New mo­bile in­ter­ac­tive ap­pli­ca­tions are be­ing im­ple­mented ev­ery day, from pub­lish­ing books on phone reader apps to so­cial me­dia plat­forms such as Africa’s largest home­grown mo­bile so­cial net­work MXit. Cur­rently, the South

How is Africa going to harness its vast hu­man and nat­u­ral re­sources in the di­rec­tion needed, as the Pan-African icon Kwame Nkrumah put it, “To al­low the African ge­nius full ex­pres­sion”?

African based ser­vice has well over 50 mil­lion users, not only al­lows its users to stay in touch by text chat­ting, and fa­cil­i­tat­ing live tu­to­ri­als such as Dr Maths. Its statis­tics are not to be scoffed at hav­ing helped 30,000 school-aged chil­dren work through math­e­mat­ics prob­lems by con­nect­ing them with math­e­mat­ics tu­tors for live chat ses­sions.

It is also very af­ford­able – some would even say cheap – since the ser­vice it­self is free with min­i­mal costs payable to their mo­bile net­work, and to boot, it op­er­ates 24 hours 7 days a week.

This is only just one so­lu­tion that can as­sist Africans in the Di­as­pora, but is also very much de­pen­dant on ac­cess to ex­ist­ing dig­i­tal in­fra­struc­tures that each coun­try has to of­fer its cit­i­zens.

Africa needs more MXit like in­no­va­tions such as Nokia Life, a sub­scrip­tion in­for­ma­tion ser­vice de­signed for emerg­ing mar­kets that of­fers a wide range of in­for­ma­tion ser­vices cov­er­ing healthcare, agri­cul­ture, ed­u­ca­tion and en­ter­tain­ment. It reaches over 70 mil­lion sub­scribers in Pak­istan, In­dia, China, In­done­sia and Nige­ria.

In a UNESCO led think piece on ed­u­ca­tion and skills, “Ed­u­ca­tion and skills for in­clu­sive and sus­tain­able devel­op­ment be­yond 2015”, pre­dic­tions are that grad­ual shifts away from class-room cen­tred ed­u­ca­tion will oc­cur with a more pro­nounced ap­proach to in­for­mal learn­ing within the learn “any­where, any­time” con­cept, this be­ing sus­tained and made pos­si­ble with the in­evitable mo­bile mar­ket pen­e­tra­tion to learn­ers across the spec­trum, from ur­ban to ru­ral ar­eas. The re­port goes on fur­ther to state that along with ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion tools such as lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy, dig­i­tal and in­for­ma­tion lit­er­acy, crit­i­cal think­ing as well as on­line com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills will be nec­es­sary. Un­der the guid­ance of teach­ers, who also need to equip them­selves with these skills, the mo­bile phone mar--

“The African ex­pe­ri­ence has been that ed­u­ca­tion dur­ing colo­nial times was driven by mis­sion­ar­ies. The con­ven­tional wis­dom sug­gests that this was mainly through al­tru­is­tic con­sid­er­a­tions – al­beit racially tinged – to bring light to the Dark Con­ti­nent and en­light­en­ment to its na­tives.”

ket is here to stay and is al­ready a nec­es­sary item in terms of keep­ing abreast of all things in ev­ery­day life.

Many an ed­u­ca­tor will ar­gue that the tra­di­tional class­room en­vi­ron­ment can never be re­placed, where learn­ers can in­ter­act live with a teacher, and feed off each other in terms of the col­lec­tive knowl­edge that is ex­changed within such an en­vi­ron­ment. So too one can counter ar­gue that within a dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ment, be it in the form of an on­line dis­cus­sion or so­cial ed­u­ca­tion plat­form, the same ap­plies, and not only does it re­main on record for as long as the ser­vice re­mains ac­tive on the par­tic­u­lar plat­form, it is ac­ces­si­ble from any­where and any­time and not time bound.

It is a fine line of mix­ing and match­ing the needs of learn­ers across Africa by tak­ing the best of tra­di­tional teach­ing meth­ods and adapt­ing and mould­ing them into a co­he­sive, suc­cess­ful for­mula that will pro­ject and let Africa play on an even field with other global play­ers, thereby re­mem­ber­ing the words of that great man:

“Ed­u­ca­tion is the most pow­er­ful weapon, which you can use to change the world.” – Nel­son Man­dela

It is a fine line of mix­ing and match­ing the needs of learn­ers across Africa by tak­ing the best of tra­di­tional teach­ing meth­ods and adapt­ing and mould­ing them into a co­he­sive, suc­cess­ful for­mula that will pro­ject and let Africa play on an even field with other global play­ers

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.