Home » Education » Education, Pan-Africanism, Ubuntu [analysis]

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” WHEN one thinks of Pan-Africanism, some of the first things that come to mind are the names associated with the movement. Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Sekou Toure, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Marcus Garvey and WEB Dubois to mention a few.

Most of what is taught about Pan-Africanism is done at tertiary level after all the foundations of learning have been completed. Students leave schools with more knowledge of Western “heroes” who “discovered” and “developed” Africa than the names of those who fought to liberate and unite the continent.

A few weeks ago social networks were abuzz with shock at a BBC Africa quiz where a handful of students in South Africa were unable to answer what some would consider relatively simple questions about Africa such as who is Kenneth Kaunda.

From the seven minute clip some ridiculed the ignorance of the young South Africans, but rather than find amusement the clip was rather disheartening. Some might choose to criticise the South African academic programmes, but in truth not many teenagers would have fared much better. Most of what one learns about Africa and Africans is self taught.

The question that one should ask is what do our education systems do to prepare us as Africans?

The answer, nothing.

Pan-Africanism is an ideology and movement that believes in the universal oneness of Africans and works to achieve this unity in political, social and economic spheres. In short, it is the anglicised ideological definition of ubuntu.

If ubuntu is something that is important to Africans then this should be reflected in what is taught and learnt not only in homes, but more importantly in schools.

For now African education systems are where Pan-Africanism has gone to die. Most school systems are remnants of the colonial period and follow similar styles of teaching and curriculum. Private schools in Zimbabwe for example teach a Cambridge syllabus which does little to grow their students as African citizens.

There needs to be a Pan-African agenda in our schools. The African Union and the regional economic communities talk about moves towards regional integration and a united Africa, but this will never be possible if people remain ignorant about the continent they inhabit.

What is important to realise from the onset is that setting a Pan-African agenda is not just about teaching African history and biographies of founding fathers such as Nkrumah as some might think, but it is also about adapting the education system to fit the African context.

Economics and business studies should reflect the reality of African business practices. Understanding the informal sector for example should be a core element of the curriculum as it is a massive contributor to the livelihoods of Africans.

UN Women reports that the contribution of women informal traders to national GDP amounts to 64 percent of value added in trade in Benin 46 percent in Mali and 41 percent in Chad.

It would be folly to ignore such an important sector of the economy from an academic perspective.

The same spotlight on Africa should apply in other disciplines. Why focus on teaching Shakespeare when Kenyan Ngugi wa Thiong’o has a plethora of books and plays that one as an African can relate to easier than The Bard?

Why prioritise teaching only French, Portuguese, Spanish and Chinese and not include Ndebele, Swahili, isiZulu, Lingala? Or Igbo perhaps, a language one would assume the multitude of Nollywood lovers might be interested in knowing?

The politics of language is extremely important when it comes to how people relate to each other. As the late African statesman Nelson Mandela said, “if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

There are unfortunately a number of people sceptical about the Pan-African dream. “There is so much conflict and corruption here, Africa is too diverse to be united,” the Afro-pessimists exclaim. Such thinking is de-constructive and retrogressive. Diversity should not be something that divides ,but something that is celebrated and shared.

Unfortunately perpetuated ignorance and negative stereotypes have helped to breed Afrophobia across the continent. To combat this, it is necessary to relearn what is known about Africa.

The 18845 Berlin Conference worked to divide and conquer Africans. Through dedicated educational reform, Africans can work to unite and prosper themselves.

One is not naiumlve to think that the Pan-African dream of a united Africa can be attained in this lifetime. The problems that Africa faces run deeper than a broken educational system. But the platform for change is there, it is up to Africans to choose ubuntu, to practise it and to teach it.

Source : The Herald