Education as cultural empowerment for development


By Dr Vimbai Gukwe Chivaura

COLONIAL education in Africa was used politically by whites against the advancement of Africans.
Rhodesians used it against the advancement of Africans in Zimbabwe.
They called education for Africans Bantu Education or Native Education.
Its focus was on developing mechanical skills in Africans for carrying out instructions and physical jobs for whites.
There was no content in syllabuses on Bantu education to develop the African mind for jobs in management and positions of leadership in government, social organisations and economic institutions.
According to Belgium’s King Leopold II, European missionaries to Africa were supposed to: “Teach the Africans to read and write; not to think or reason.”
This is the criteria used today to assess the rate of literacy and quality of education in Africa. Its architects are whites like King Leopold II.
In their assessment, they focus on human resources development, human capital development, and what they call, capacity building, for Africa.
A country’s literacy rate and quality of its education is quantified on the basis of the numbers of people who have obtained professional qualifications and acquired what they call ‘technical know-how’.
These are the skills considered requisite for a country’s development and progress.
The ‘technical know-why’ of persons and their capacity to think and reason for themselves and question instructions and what they read in books, are totally ignored and completely left out from the criteria for judging a country’s level of literacy and quality of its education.
Zimbabwe is rated number one in this type of literacy and education in Africa. Zimbabweans are adept in environmental sciences, health sciences, food technologies, bio-genetics, bio-chemistry, finance, banking, electronics, and the new information communication technologies. They are wizards in technical ‘know-how’ but grossly lacking in technical “know-why”.
Their skills are in great demand in Africa, Europe and America. Their dispassionate professional approach to work and readiness to do any job abroad, however, menial or demeaning have earned them the praises of being the most faithful, uncomplaining employees in Africa, from their employers in several countries around the world, especially whites in Europe and America.
The education they have received has taught them to view technical skills as value-neutral; and to regard themselves as mere embodiments of skills and instruments of labour and production for whites.
Their type of mindset subscribes to the white notion of Africans as good for nothing but physical skills such as athletics, football, basketball, dancing, eating, jokes, sex, entertainment and laughter, of course, under the whiteman’s close supervision, intellectual instruction, economic control, moral guidance and command.
Here is what the English novelist, Anthony Trollope, says concerning the view of Africans as mere bodies without brains.
He says, “The African is idle, un-ambitious as to worldly position, sensual and content with little. He despises himself thoroughly and would probably starve for a month if he would appear as a white man for a day.”
Another white man, a God-fearing man called Father Temples, has this to say about Africans as beasts without a soul who should look up to Europe for salvation, deliverance and guidance from their soulless animal status.
He says: “We cannot pretend that the Bantu are capable of presenting us with a philosophical treatise with an adequate vocabulary. It is we who must develop it and tell them their innermost conception of being.”
The education that Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular, continues to teach our children in our schools and at universities will inevitably continue to produce intellectuals and leaders for Africa who look up to Europe and America for guidance in their development programmes, thereby affirming the European notion of Africans as brainless chimpanzees incapable of mapping out their own progress without the white man or Europe.
If the whiteman or Europe says “Shoot” Africans must shoot without asking why, even if the persons they have been asked to shoot are their own mothers, brothers and sisters.
This is so because their education is mechanical. It has no philosophy or culture-content which empowers a people and enables them to think, reason and say:
“This is my mother; I can’t shoot her. I am a man; I can’t marry a man. I am 10; I am not ready for sex even with a condom. I am African; I can’t be ruled by a whiteman; He killed my ancestors and stole my land and turned me into his slave.”
These are the values that empower Africans for indigenisation, development and self-assertion. They bring about the spirit of patriotism we call ‘hunhu’ or ‘ubuntu’ in Africa, or ‘culture’ in English.
They constitute what we call The Human Factor Approach to Development and Education in Africa in our book of that title.
Adjibolosoo defines them, in the same book, as: “The spectrum of personality characteristics and other dimensions of human performance that enable social, economic and political institutions to function and remain functional over time.”
No people, organisation, society, nation or country can sustain its development goals and activities without these values being taught in our education systems in Africa or Zimbabwe, from nursery school to the university level.
The continued disdain to include these values in our education curricula will, inevitably, make our children, leaders, academics, priests, pastors and politicians continue in Africa and Zimbabwe continue to look up to Europe for Regime Change Programmes as models of progress for Africa, singing: “Wash me redeemer and I shall be whiter than snow.”
If God is slow to respond, as Ngugi says, there are always hot combs, lipsticks, skin-lightening creams, human hair, weaves, and wigs, to help the African on the spiritual journey to whiteness and black-death.


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