Universities produce ‘parrots, donkeys ... social blindness’

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s universities are in a stranglehold of politicisation and neocolonialism, teaching Western theories and approaches that favour the privileged who work in “political and economic neoliberal enterprises” at the expense of the everyday needs of the Congolese people, according to humanities researcher and expert in community development Mapenzi Manyebwa.

He called for a renewal of the university system to take account of the people’s priorities.

Writing in La Prospérité, Manyebwa said universities were imbued “with a chronic scientific and cultural mimicry, in a politicisation of university administration posts”, and had “today become an environment that perpetuates poverty of intellect, and intellectual and scientific alienation of the Congolese, from generation to generation”.

“The Congolese university system, 62 years after independence, is incapable of training an honest, inventive and patriotic Congolese elite to loyally serve Congolese society,” but instead was continuing to produce “more and more parrots, donkeys, political distractions and social blindness”, wrote Manyebwa.

This “servile copy-and-paste” university made no sense for the Congolese, and offered only “illusionary tranquillisers to the DRC’s problems”. It produced women and men “in the service of political and economic neoliberal enterprises”, without taking account of the priorities of the Congolese people.

Universities serve neocolonial ends

Nothing was surprising about the education given in the Congolese universities “because the Western scientific theories and approaches are taught with much more rigour to produce Congolese gladiators who favour the powerful”, said Manyebwa.

The Congolese university existed only for “neocolonial ends”, he said.

Now, he said, it was timely to think of a new approach to guarantee the country’s future: “A way for anthropological and scientific change, a way for a new educational and university policy in Congo Kinshasa.”

He said the Congolese crisis was, first, sociocultural, before becoming political and economic. “That’s why a national education of creativity, social cohesion and African revival must be a priority to tackle the immense challenges. It is through a framework (school, university) that a society thinks and imagines its future, learns its history and analyses the necessary strategies to remain upright at the present time.

“If we fail to give an exact meaning to the Congolese university, we shall continue to be victims of Western scientific theories,” he said. “It is through the Congolese university that we aspire to that we are going to succeed in educating new leaders who will work in our favour.

“However, all these women and men who are today ministers, senators, presidential advisers, members of parliament, senior civil servants are the products of the neocolonial university, regardless of where they studied. They have no sense of patriotism and dignity for the Congolese people.”

Today, those governing universities were characterised by “mediocrity, corruption, nepotism, hedonism, violence and total and generalised insecurity … with the aim of bringing all the people to their knees”, and to “impoverish us and vilify us”, he said.

Once they amassed their fortunes, they sent their families to the West, and exploited their country’s natural resources; meanwhile, they observed chronic murders and acute insecurity in towns throughout the Congo.

It was necessary to question at what point academics in Congolese universities were complicit in the country’s sociopolitical, economic and security crisis, and to investigate their role in the misgoverning of the country, he wrote.

Now, Manyebwa said, there was time to work and fight for positive change.

Everything must be done to depoliticise the universities and higher institutions; students must be rigorous and demand profound reform and reorganisation; their parents must find out what their children were being taught, and question whether it was useful in everyday life.

The government must be made aware of its cultural and scientific weakness and its hypocrisy: “It is through new awareness that good initiatives for university renewal will come into existence,” said Manyebwa. – Compiled by Jane Marshall.

This commentary is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original reports.