Education as Imperialism In Africa – By Jumah Imran

One of the most damaging and lasting effects of colonialism has been the creation in all colonized countries, particularly African ones, of a class of ‘elite’ people who might more appropriately be called the ‘deluded hybrids’. Products of the imposed system of education designed to create a class uprooted from its cultural and moral traditions.

The main objective of Western edu¬cation in Africa was partly to train subordinate administrative personnel for employment in the imperial administration, and partly to develop an influential class of persons in African countries who, though African to the extent of their skin color; possessed a Western cul¬tural orientation – language, consumption habits, dress, social morality, ideas about government, economy, class, etc. – and therefore a stake in the continuation of the “Western con¬nection”.

People of this type, or with at least elements of the Western outlook, emerged in all African countries under European imperial rule. In many cases they inherited actual political leadership from the Europeans when, on “inde¬pendence”, colonial status gave way to neo colonial status.
It is this influential class who, as politicians and soldiers, has continued to hold the reins of government in cynical and damaging succession in these countries. This development, when considered from its wider political, moral and ideo¬logical perspectives, has had many consequences.

Imperialism led to the acceptance of the myth of Eur¬opean superiority – an essential ingredient of the Euro¬pean educational philosophy – in governmental and intel¬lectual circles in our countries, and consequently to the acceptance of European thought and ideas as possessing uni¬versal validity. For that reason successive governments almost everywhere in Africa, have come to accept European notions of government, economy and social reform as final and immutable. And for that reason, our universities have come to peddle Western ideals – Capitalism, Socialism, democracy and the rest – as the only valid and universal ideals.

The danger is that ideals which are essentially racial and parochial, which have given particular cause for colonialism from which we all suffer and which, moreover, have de¬veloped from strictly European experience and are therefore irrelevant to our own experience are taught at the expense of our heritage and values. It is this widespread acceptance of this myth of the essential superiority of European thought and practice in the field of human affairs which constitutes the most formidable ob¬stacles in the way of extricating contemporary Africa from the corruption into which it is plunged.

Even when this alleged universal validity of the European system has proved hollow, as in Nigeria, DR Congo, Angola and Egypt, the deluded hybrids do not even possess the courage to disown it; instead they blame themselves for not being sufficiently loyal to the Western system.

In addition to the fact that the elite in our lands are capable only of playing the part of the slave, ape or puppet in relation to Western imperialism, the nature of their training makes them inherently impotent in serious social crises, and thus socially undesirable to be at the helm of affairs over the people. Most of the modem universities in the West were established purposely to provide training in science and technology for industrial and business establishments, and not to produce scholars who could reform society. In a period of social and moral crisis, such as the one in which the West is plunged at the moment, the result is that reforming influences are remark¬ably lacking and society continues to sink deeper into the moral abyss.

In the face of this terrible corruption of Western society, our men and women of learning have little to say. The things they have studied do not fit them to offer solutions to the multiple problems of human affairs, for their training fits them rather to be instruments of the very developments which cause the crisis. There can be no doubt about it that African society at the present time is facing many of the crises which afflict the West. The fact of Western imperialism and neo colonialism indeed ensures the extension of the Western crises to our countries. The excessive Westernization of our education… ensures in turn that our men/women of learning face these crises with the helplessness – making them incapable of providing relevant long-term solutions.

All that the elite leadership has been able to do in the period of moral crisis, which in some countries has been persistent, is to resort to such self-defeating measures as reliance on force, brutality and ruthlessness to solve what is essentially a human problem. This in itself is an indication of the absence of reason and intelligence in governments, as well as an inability to make moral evaluations to ensure per¬manent solutions.

Another consequence of Western education is its inability to produce men and women of vision, ability and integrity to hold the reins of power. In our universities or military academies, people are given alien models for imitation and in the effort to comply to the norms that are essentially not theirs, the so-called educated elements or ‘intellectuals’ lose their self-respect, and more im-portantly, are turned into weaklings. That is precisely why we have lost nation builders, visionaries and people of ideas who deal with other nations, not as beggars and dwarfs, but as men/women of strength and purpose.

Western education has robbed us of our African identity and produced Africans who have been specially manu¬factured to ensure the continuation of the ‘Western connection’. This Western connection, however, cannot be perpetuated without a severe, impairing cultural influence, where people are brought up under the blighting influence of tribalism, and under the guidance of a literature in which it has been the fashion to caricature the African, to ridicule his personal peculiarities and to impress him with a sense of perpetual and hopeless inferiority.

The last consequence of colonial education is the virtual substitution of Spirituality, Ethics and Morality with crude and brutal power as the object of reliance and trust, which has resulted in a new kind of self¬-imperialism. The Westernized elite, being uprooted from their culture, have come to view with a most profound awe Western powers and their vast array of weaponry and daz-zling technological achievement; hence, they submit to West¬ern interests, even before they are told to do so. This is also the reason why, even when Western ideas are being ques¬tioned in the West, our men in government and universities still dread questioning what the white man believes.

The reason why the traditions of learning which these [West¬ern] institutions represent, in spite of the way in which they run counter to the grain of human intellectual history are so often unquestionably accepted by African intellectuals is no doubt due to the enormous material power they’ve generated in the West, and which it is often hoped will be similarly generated here in Africa.
The acceptance of secularism as a philosophy of education has meant that the things that matter considerably in national life – politics, the economy, social morality – are deprived of their spiritual content and are, therefore, ultimately trivialized.

Politics, we are told, is not a responsibility with far-reaching and profound conse¬quences, but as it is often said ‘a dirty game’. Should anyone wonder then that the whole life in so many African countries has been polluted by politics of dirt and vulgarity?
The object of secularism is precisely to vulgarize people’s attitudes not only to Spirituality, Ethics, and Morality but to every aspect of life, becoming a decisive force in the shaping of the destiny of nations. It is borne out of human arrogance which promotes the notion that God does not matter, that spirituality is not relevant in the organization of human life.

In the process of banishing spirituality, however, many other things are desecrated: human life, human freedom, social organization, politics, knowledge and even religion itself. All these have become cheap commodities, subjected not to higher values but to the whims of those who rule. In fact it is the lack of a definite commitment to our African values that has been the bane of our Continent.

The absence of the influence of spiritual values in determining the course of the nation means that the decisive spiritual and social steps that need to be taken to correct the national ills will never be taken. The belief seems to be that human conduct can be changed by force, but not through a moral transformation, persuasion, education, inspiration or personal example. When we con¬sider that secularism is a system imposed by our experience as a colonized people, then we have to accept that it has to be abandoned as a necessary first step in any attempt to bring about a social transformation of society. Among other things, this requires two basic steps.

First, we must oust the hegemony of secular western thought in our universities and institutions of learning, and bring our African spiritual values to bear into all fields of endeavour. The present system of education not only ensures that corruption is provided with a sound technological base, but its sole object, is to train people in how to make money and to achieve a sound exploitative relationship with one’s fellow men. We must minimize the peddling of secular thought – be it in the form of liberal capitalist philosophy or Socialist doctrine – so as to arrest the drift to corruption and social decay in so many African countries.

Secondly, since the secular approach to social transformation is ineffective and, in most cases, deceptive, Africans, and most especially African scholars and intel¬lectuals, now have the responsibility to move to the forefront in the struggle to save our countries from their present servile and cringing attitude and establish the spiritual and moral basis for genuine change. The magic of secular thought is gone and its days of absolute predominance are over.

As African intellectuals; this decaying liberalism and this strong materialistic individualism are not natural; they have been forced on us in recent times. Moreover, they run sharply counter to the grain of the African cultural heritage. If we want a strong social morality which will carry us forward in development, we do not have to bring it from the other side of the world, from countries we do not know and people we do not properly understand. We can find it here: in the abandoned and forgotten traditions of the cultural heritage of our Continent.
I will end this singing and saying:

Nkosi, sikelel’ iAfrika – God bless Africa
In English:
Lord, bless Africa
May her horn rise high up
Hear Thou our prayers And bless us…
In Xhosa:
Nkosi, sikelel’ iAfrika
Maluphakamis’upondo lwayo
Yizwa imithandazo yethu
Nkosi sikelela, Thina lusapholwayo…

It is time to arise and grasp the blessings of God on the African continent. Africa is blessed and every day we see fresh evidence. Our goal as Africans should be to showcase some of these stories and encourage Africans to look around them and see the efforts people are making to bring change, and to join in on these efforts until it becomes the predominant trend. Then we will see the fullness of our expected restoration.

Jumah Imran can be reach via

  1. Dr Musa Ruwa Reply

    A very good paper

  2. Anonymous Reply

    thank you so much helped a lot :))))

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