By Adebayo Eleduasomiji Adedeji
Education plays a major role in the advancement of human development and, as Walter Rodney stated, economic development lies in the capacity of humans to exploit their environment for survival. Human capacity to refine nature is determined by the overall level of intellectual development. This includes scientific knowledge of the natural world, the technical capacity to develop and use tools, and the social ability to organize and direct labour and resources. As humans interact with the natural world to advance their material condition, this also stimulates further intellectual development. In particular, social development depends on engagement in this process and societal advancement affects and is affected by the nature of individual development.
Education in precolonial Africa was seen as a fundamental service to be given to every Individual for self development, and in return, the attained skills or knowledge were to be put back into the social labour formation for the development of the society. This was anchored by the collectivist setting of precolonial Africa where people were nurtured to the importance of putting their society ahead of individual glorification. The destruction of African education led to the underdevelopment of Africa society. In the colonial period, due to the formation of the global capitalist division of labour, the colonial administration had no need to develop Africa in mass because their aim in Africa was to extract raw materials which only required little formal education and training. Even then, the formal education process involved destroying any collective mentally by alienating natives from their communities.
By putting those receiving colonial education in boarding schools where they had to compete among each other for the chance to “advance” their education in Europe, these educated natives went through a process of brainwashing at the early stage of their lives to be introduced to western norms and values. They were deprived from knowledge of their roots, traditions, and customs to where they saw their interests attached to the French, British, Portuguese, Spanish etc because they had become an alien to their people. These educated natives were to be stooges, fighting colonialism on the basis of western notions of “rights” rather than destroying the capitalist system which creates distinctions between haves and have nots. This same class of people are blind to the reality that capitalism creates the inequities for racism to thrive.
Similar to early in the capitalist epoch of Europe, where education was used for class stratification, promoting bourgeois interests, and managing the capitalist state, the educated class in Africa has been important for the political and economic grounding of capitalism. They dominate society and use the state to manage domestic sectors like labour and education to enhance profits of foreign capitalist investment. The cocoa business men, the African directors in multinational companies, the military heads of state, the bank managers, the tech African gurus, through their formal and informal education, are all dependent on the capitalist system and answer to the needs of the metropolis.
Colonial and Neocolonial education’s end goal is to produce educated people to the further western imperialist agenda, which is quite opposed to the collectivist education which existed for hundreds of years in Africa. When we critically cross examine colonial education since its introduction to Africa, it has only created symbolic gains mostly related to individuals and left out developmental transformation on a large scale. Quoting Malcolm X: “… the white man will try to satisfy us with symbolic victories rather than economic equity and real justice”. In this context, due to colonial education, we celebrate abstract achievements such as black billionaires on the Forbes list as continental achievement while there is mass poverty in Africa with wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. Neocolonialism has taught us to be more concerned with “growth” than development. However growth under neocolonialism ensures that concentrated wealth and mass poverty continues while the west continues to appropriate the vast majority dividends of social labour, with a few Africans taking the majority of the crumbs left in Africa. Africa had a faster pace of development before western intrusion because the collectivist practice of organizing social labour for the advancement of all.
There is a dialectical relationship between the economic and the socio-cultural lives of people, meaning the socio-cultural system relies on and influences the economic system, and the economic system reflects and affects the socio-cultural system. While production has often been in collective, how the economy distributes the benefits from production differentiates economic systems. Similar to the colonial education which empasizes individual advancement for the chance to manage colonial system and promote foriegn capitalist interests, the necolonial economic system has a few local bourgeois receive some wealth while the lion’s share of the benefits of production are appropriated by foreign capitalists, rather than the collective of labourers. Decolonization is the only way Africa can be liberated from the alien practices that have systematically underdeveloped the continent. Africans must overturn the exploitative capitalist system and strengthen socialism that puts the collective interests of all as the dominant ideology. When people live in a society where togetherness and collective achievement are important, education will reflect these values, rather than the competitive pathology that currently dominates neocolonial Africa. IRE