Colonial Learning Legacy in Africa

The nineteenth-century created a historic turning point in the history of Africa. Not only did it witness the end of the slave trade and the inauguration of legitimate commerce, the high tide of European imperial invasion, conquest, and pacification, but it also signaled the introduction of Western education. European Christian missionaries were the forerunners of Western education. While Western education was a treasured instrument of effective colonization and conciliation of Africa, ironically it was also very useful for the eventual decolonization of Africa.

It is against this background that the history of Western education remains a predominant theme in African history. However, it is mistaken to assume that there was no system of education in Africa before the arrival of the Europeans.

The nature of colonialism resulted in the disparagement and disturbance of the African traditional cultures and systems of education to make way for Western education and European civilization. It is, however, not the aim of this assignment to discuss western education per say but to justify that Western Education was rather schooling or instructional than educating.

In order to justify that colonial or neocolonial learning legacy was designed to school and instruct children rather than educate them, there is a need to establish the differences that exist between education and schooling. Thereafter, there will be a need to examine the components of indigenous education before the advents of the colonial masters as to ascertain whether it satisfied the qualities of education.

From, here an examination of colonial or neocolonial learning will be done and based on the definition of education, the assignment will conclude by either justifying that colonial learning was indeed schooling children or otherwise.

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Kelly defines education as a lifelong process in which the older generation imparts skills, values, and knowledge into the young ones for their own survival. According to this definition done by Kelly, education is a process that equips the young ones with weapons that they go along with as they progress into their journey. These are skills and values necessary for their survival. Survivalists learning teaches individuals to adapt to the environment by finding out means of surviving on their own void of others. It is clear in Zambia that there is no other form of learning taught for the survival of the children as it were in the indigenous African education.

Kelly (1999) further justifies that education should comprise of organized and sustained communication which is designed to bring about learning. In his mind (Kelly), communication implied a relationship between two or more persons involved into a transfer of information. Organized, meaning learning being planned in a given pattern or a sequence of established topics or curricula and an agency in charge of the organization. Sustained is taken to mean the learning experiences with reference to duration and learning, taken to mean the change in behavior, information, knowledge, understanding, attitudes, skills or capabilities, which are returned.

The provision of education, however, may differ depending on the social needs of the people in a particular society. Thus, it would be imperative to argue based its nature that African children in colonial or neocolonial periods learned what they lived in every respect. Ocitti (1973) defines schooling as ‘the process of being taught, such as in a school’. According to this assumption, schooling may be thought to occur in the lower grades, where children are taught the basics, which enable them to continue learning at higher educational institutions. Schooling could also mean accomplishment in a particular vocational skill or trade, such as a ‘mechanics’ or ‘beauty’ school. From this standpoint, it is imperative to examine the kind of learning done in the colonial or neocolonial period.

The process of colonization involves one nation or territory taking control of another nation or territory either using force or by acquisition. As a byproduct of colonization, the colonizing nation implements its own form of schooling within its colonies. The purpose of colonial or neocolonial learning, however, was the ideal of assimilation. Assimilation involves the colonized being forced to conform to the cultures and traditions of the colonizers. Gauri (1988) argued that cultural assimilation was the most effective form of political action because culture domination works by consent and often precedes conquest by force.

Colonizing governments realize that they gain strength not necessarily through physical control, but through mind control. This kind of control was through a central intellectual location, the school system. According to Kelly and Altbach (1984) colonial schools sought to extend foreign domination and economic exploitation of the colony. This was true about the learning in Zambia in the colonial or neocolonial period, because learning was about to the absorption of the metropole and not separating it from the dependent development of the colonized in their own society and culture. In addition, colonial or neocolonial learning striped the colonized people away from their indigenous learning structures and drew them towards the structure of the colonizers.

Going by the definition of education as done by Kelly in his book, education is a lifelong process in which the older generation imparts skills, values, and knowledge into the young ones for their own survival. Meaning colonial or neocolonial learning was not about equipping the young ones in skills for survival, but it was about assimilating them to the foreign culture, which could not equip them for the challenges in the future. Learning was taken to be just a set of instructions, which learners had to take for the sake of it. For example, the British indirect rule system, which, in principle, preserved the African indigenous political system, basic and vocational education and not higher education, was preferred. This was simply because there was no role for a highly educated African in a political setup that depended on the use of traditional political institutions under the kings or chiefs.

This, therefore, meant that education in this aspect could not help the young ones as they move up the ladder in their lives. To qualify for assimilation, however, the acquisition of colonial or neocolonial learning meant the adoption of English culture as a prerequisite. Since the religious focus of the mission schools was not adequate in accomplishing the assimilation’s objectives, the British colonial administration intervened to realign education accordingly. Fluency in English was a prerequisite. School administrators and teachers were given directives to replace the mother tongue hitherto used by the missionaries as a medium of instruction with the English language. The use of English at all educational levels was a key element in fulfilling the policy of assimilation. It was a powerful instrument in the dissemination of English culture among the natives.

The policy of association that later replaced assimilation also targeted the elite classes of Africans who met the criteria for English citizenship and who would become assimilates through the adoption of English culture and education. The enduring impact of colonial or neocolonial learning produced its own contradictions. Early enough, the colonial governments had recognized that their power over Africans depended not necessarily on physical but mental (psychological) control through the school system. Deficient in scope and content, colonial learning promoted vocational studies and neglected technology, pure and applied sciences and engineering. African studies were excluded from the colonial learning curricula. For instance, the history syllabi emphasized the history of European activities in Africa instead of the history of Africa and Africans. It praised the Europeans who supposedly discovered the victoria falls and Rivers Zambezi as if Africans who lived in the areas did not know about these rivers.

In almost all instances, no mention is made of Africans who led the European explorers to their targets. Unquestionably, colonial learning resulted in the erosion of African identity and imparted a limited sense of the African past. This in its own rights contradicted the norms of educations as was defined by Kelly. It is common knowledge that the implementation of colonial or neocolonial learning leaves the African learners with a limited sense of their past. Many learners entered into a condition of hybridity, in which their identities were created out of multiple cultural forms, practices, beliefs and power dynamics. The colonial or neocolonial learning created a blurring that made it difficult to differential between the new, enforced ideas of the colonizers and the formerly accepted native practices.

Colonial or neocolonial learning created damage to people’s beliefs in their names, in their languages for example, in their environment, in their heritage of struggle, in their unity, in their capacities, and ultimately in themselves. It makes them to see their past as a wasteland of non-achievement and it makes them want to distance themselves from that wasteland. Colonial or neocolonial learning among other things creates a desire in the children to disassociate with native heritage and it affects the individual and the sense of self-confidence. It instills a sense of inferiority and disempowerment with the collective psyche of a colonized people.

This all was designed in order that the learners are not prepared for the challenges of life in the future but to make them appreciate that which do not belong to them. The learning is far from helping them address the immediate issues surrounding them, making them dependent on them; for example, the learning of such a nature does not produce engineers, doctors, economists, lawyers who can contribute positively to the wealth of the nation but it make them theorize concepts and master instructions which they were able to reproduce in volumes without understanding. This kind of learning did not allow the spirit of the invention

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Colonial Learning Legacy in Africa. (2021, Dec 13). Retrieved from

Colonial Learning Legacy in Africa
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