In search of a Pan African homeland and education
In Bryant Mumford’s book*, first published in 1939, Africans Learn to be French; in 2015, the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie produced her best-selling novel entitled Americanah, in which Africans are being Americanised but Africa is represented as a place one must stay away from, reminiscent of Keith Richburg’s 1993 book A Black Man Confronts Africa, where he confessed his gladness that his ancestors made it out of Africa into American slavery.
It is a historical fact that, for more than 1,000 years now, Europeans and Arabs have imposed their educational systems on the Africans that remained on the African continent. In their own continent, African people were educated to be ashamed of the way they dressed, talked, prayed, married and even recreated. African traditional educational systems and religions were referred to as informal and Animistic or Fetishistic worldviews.
It was also advantageous to adopt European and Arabic names, manner of speech, dress, and patterns of recreation. To make it in the British African colonies, one had to know the Queen’s language and speak like a perfect English gentleman.
Arabic education in Africa since the 700s has perpetuated the superiority of Prophet Muhammed’s bloodline. Here we find educated black Africans writing poems that depreciated their blackness and anthropometry.
As if these massive miseducations of African people were not enough, the ascent of the United States to global power after World War II brought into Africa’s educational institutions American educational paradigms derived from the plantation tradition and global capitalism.
A number of American Ivy League universities such as Columbia’s Teachers College and the University of Chicago were recruited to propagate American educational paradigms in selected African universities on the continent. In British Africa, settler and non-settler colonies, educational adaptation theories from black American colleges such as Tuskegee and Hampton institutes were transplanted into Liberia, Kenya and South Africa.
If educational adaptation had worked so well for black Americans, why not bring it to the African natives on the continent, to educate them to be subservient to global European colonial powers.
But, by the early 1800s, however, a few liberally educated Africans had already begun to challenge colonial and educational adaptation schemes as the mechanisation for the education of African people for subservience.
Western colonial and missionary educational schemes were also rejected by the African nationalists of the 1950s and the 1960s, the decade of African independence.
In 1960 alone, 17 African countries obtained political independence from their European colonisers. But, as soon as African nations became politically ‘independent’, they established micro-nationalist African universities and mass educational systems in their respective countries; Makerere University, that had functioned as an East African University, became primarily a Uganda university, now that Kenya and Tanzania had their own nationalised universities.
President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania published his “Education for Self-Reliance” in 1967, denouncing colonial education and calling for the education of the socialist society he aimed to create in his new nation of Tanzania.
The 1960s African educational systems were also bombarded by the pressures of the Cold War between the Western world and the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), in competition for the African mind and mineral resources.
The then USSR established Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, while the US sponsored some micro-nationalist universities then being established on the African continent; Western research paradigms competed with the Marxist analysis of society paradigm. African nations could be politically independent, but must not be intellectually free from the East, and especially not from the West.
With the defeat of Russian Marxism in 1989, the US and western Europe stood at the apex of the global pyramid. Professor Mark Abrahamson’s 2004 book Global Cities has New York City as the foremost economic and cultural centre above all the rest.
But, in this global village, the Western minority would not continue to dominate in all aspects for much too long. China and India are successfully challenging Western dominance in space science and industrial production.
There are currently thousands of African students in Chinese and Indian universities enrolled in scientific and technological fields of studies; these had been previously dominated by the East and western Europe.
African graduates from these varied cultural and social backgrounds are returning to Africa with multiplicities of intellectual orientations, ways of knowing and even behaving.
What kind of education is best for Africa?
The most pertinent question that Africans need to ask is: what sort of education [is best] for African people in the global village of the 21st century and beyond?
African peoples’ historical and educational experiences under the Arabs substantiate that the people that now dominate one-third of the African continent imposed themselves on Africans from the 700s to the present, insisting that they are the superior ones to the African natives, even those that had converted to Islam.
In Professor Ronald Segal’s 2001 book, Islam’s Black Slaves, Arabs consider dark brown, black Africans, and those they consider Zanji as inferior human beings, associated with bestial and insatiable prurient appetites. As for Europeans and European Americans, African people are intellectually inferior and fit to be educated for subservient positions below the Euro-man and fit to be segregated in their Bantustans, Kikuyu or Masai reservations.
When African nationalists took over their nations’ educational systems in the 1960s, they implemented mass education in their new micro-nationalistic African entities. The traditional systems of education that had been provided to the Kikuyu in President Jomo Kenyatta’s 1965 book, Facing Mount Kenya, would have to adapt to the new Kenyan realities of multiple ethnic and racial groups as well as the other multiplicities all over the African continent.
In 1963, Emperor Haile Selassie published ‘Towards African Unity’ in The Journal of Modern African Studies, and called for the establishment of an All-African University in which a cadre of African students would get to know each other better and also be trained and educated for an integrated Pan African homeland.
Though tribal, missionary, colonial, and micro-nationalist educational systems had worked for their intended purposes, African nationalists such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, and Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, and many others, advocated for the establishment of Pan African educational institutions for our future Pan African homeland; African people no longer lived in their exclusively tribal or micro-nationalistic nations.
In the 21st century dominated by the European Union, Greater China, an India populated by 1.4 billion people, greater North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA), and other large economic and political units in our global village, continental African unity and integration should be an exigent imperative.
Pan African education
My concept of Pan African Education is, therefore, a responsive continuation of the Pan Africanists’ project for an integrated Africa in all aspects. To accomplish this feat, Pan African educational institutions are ineluctable for the cultural, social, economic, political and infrastructural integration of continental Africa and its islands.
The African Union has already established Pan African University Institutes for Basic Sciences, Life and Earth Sciences, Water and Energy Sciences, and others at the graduate and post-graduate level. These regional centres of excellence, however, exclude the masses of African people in continent al Africa, who must also all embrace scientism per excellence and Pan African sensibilities.
Pan African education for the 21st century and beyond calls for the mass education of African people in integrated educational institutions, in terms of staff, faculty, and student body from the various African countries.
The curriculum in Pan African education must be Africa-centric and should produce a Pan African personality or character whose loyalties are with the Pan African cause or project that appreciates African people’s coloration or epidermis and anthropometry; it rejects the notion or Western and Islamic traditions and worldviews that black people must be Islamic or Christian and must denounce Animism for their salvation; African people’s God has nowhere said that black African people were created to be hewers of wood and drawers of water for the rest of mankind.
In the final analysis, Pan African education is a call for the mental and cultural liberation of African people from the more than 1,000 years of miseducation.
Pan African Education calls for the creation of a Pan African homeland in which Africanness is not a liability but stands as valid as any other group in our global village.
Indeed, Africa’s educational institutions must be producing scientists, engineers and technologists of all types, but must also subject African students to common educational, cultural, literary and social experiences and thereby produce a Pan African personality that has transcended tribalism, micro-nationalism and other balkanising demarcations that have held Africa down and made her people gullible for invaders and usurpers, say, from the 700s to deep into our 21st century.
*The full title of the book is Africans Learn to be French: A review of educational activities in the seven federated colonies of French West Africa, based upon a tour of French West Africa and Algiers undertaken in 1935.
Professor John Karefah Marah is from the State University of New York Brockport, or SUNY Brockport. This article is the fourth in a series and gleaned from a chapter of the 2023 book Creating the New African University.