Harnessing African science and technology: Part Three.…Zim needs a science-led development agenda

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WE have already discussed what science is and is not.
Verifiable truths about the world around us can be described as science. The verification must be done without bias.
In essence, science is the truth behind what we see. If we see a mirage, it will tell us there are objects where in fact there is nothing. But there is an explanation as to why we see shadows.
That explanation of a mirage is the science.
There has been a tendency by Westerners to dismiss as myth all the African technologies and phenomena that they cannot understand or explain.
Young Africans who go to formal school have also assumed that the whiteman’s science that they learn at school is the truth and that phenomena which the whiteman cannot explain is also fiction.
Such sentiments reflect deep ignorance deliberately created and nurtured as part of sustaining the colonial mentality of Africans.
Only the ignorant and naïve act like an ostrich which buries its head in the sand when a fire approaches, believing that objects that it cannot see are not real.
If this, indeed, is the behaviour of ostriches, then many of them must have perished due to the many veld fires across Africa.
A wise man knows that the more he learns, the more aware he becomes of how much he does not know.
We have just heard that the STEM programme modalities have been revised in order to address the urgent needs of our economy in the context of the new dispensation.
This does not mean abandonment of the thrust to promote a science-driven development trajectory.
Education authorities must continue to build a strong science base from primary to secondary all the way to tertiary levels.
Zimbabwe requires a science-led development agenda.
Why science-led development?
In all our planning and execution of development projects, be it in agriculture, mining, industrial manufacturing or building infrastructure, we must use the best information, the best methods; tried and tested procedures.
All these are products of scientific research and development.
Poorly built infrastructure quickly breaks down and may pause danger to people’s lives and property.
The example of poorly constructed high-rise buildings, poorly surfaced roads as well as bridges on weak foundations collapsing and killing people or causing accidents all point to the critical importance of professional science-based construction practices.
We are talking about engineering, an important aspect of the STEM knowledge areas. There is little debate on these aspects.
Our dilemma is not having enough trained scientists and technocrats to put up and maintain our infrastructure.
But there are other areas of scientific knowledge where our African heritage should put us to advantage.
Much of what we can call African science falls in the realm that Westerners call indigenous knowledge. For all practical purposes, it is solid science brewed in the African pot of experience.
The colonising approach is to induce Africans to look down upon and reject as inferior the very science that has stood the test of thousands of years.
The science that has allowed Africa to flourish into great civilisations such as that of Ancient Egypt and Great Zimbabwe, among others, was denigrated, looked down upon and dismissed as primitive, even devilish or demonic.
The truth is that the Westerners do realise that indigenous science is in fact of a superior quality. That is explained by numerous Western-sponsored Indigenous knowledge research projects.
There is a realisation by western societies that Africans have already discovered the essential elements for good health through exploitation of natural plants and other products.
So-called lifestyle diseases like hypertension, diabetes and many cancers are a direct result of unscientific eating habits that compromise the natural biochemistry of the body.
Africans have over the millennia discovered the right food combinations for best health. Such lifestyle diseases were unknown before the advent of Western culture and what is clearly negative influence.
The Chinese, Indians and other ethnic groups around the world, who have resisted Western influence and stuck to their own cultures, have continued to benefit from their home-grown indigenous science.
African science (indigenous knowledge systems and practices) is under threat from two angles. One threat comes from a Western education curriculum literally devoid of African content.
The colonising curriculum teaches that Africans are inferior, primitive or down-right evil.
This results in whole generations of schooled Africans who reject their indigenous culture and the science that underpins it.
In Zimbabwe and Africa in general, the educated persons are distinguished by their near total rejection of things African.
They have become caricatures of white people with many of them taking a front role in vilifying African science and practice.
The areas of African science targeted for vilification and rejection include, but are not limited to, food, medicine, cultural practices, religion and other tangible and intangible assets.
While Westerners have found it impossible to resist the attraction of beautiful works of art such as sculptures, few ’educated’ Africans appreciate their indigenous works of art.
African medical science is one of the most advanced, especially in the areas of curative medicines. But go to any school today and offer to cure a stomach upset with African medicine!
You can almost be guaranteed there will be no takers. Bring a bottled preparation, a pill or a capsule and the sick Africans will scramble to get a dose. Another problem of wrong attitudes brought on by mis-education.
A related phenomenon is where many Africans believe that an injection is more effective as a cure than say, taking tablets. But often the chemical in the medicine is the same, only packaged differently either in tablet form or as a liquid.
All these observations point to the impact of Western education on African acceptance of their own science.
Let us hasten to point out that most medicines are based on natural products. Western medical scientists have been pirating African herbal medicines, extracting active ingredients and constituting these into tablets and liquid preparations.
This is African science stolen and re-packaged for resale to Africans who reject the original form.
This is why we need to strengthen our science curriculum.
The revised thrust of STEM should not dilute the original intention to strengthen our science education so that it underpins our economic development.
The chemistry that God created is uniform across the whole world.
There is no African or European chemistry in nature. That scientific fact is not appreciated by our ‘educated’ Africans.
The biased education system has sought to portray Europe as the source of ‘science’, a fallacy that our education system should expose and expunge from our system.
We shall look at other aspects of African science in the next episode of this series.

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