Education for Self-reliance: Epistemological Crisis

By Ali A. Abdi,University of Alberta
The educational systems in different kinds of societies in the world have been, and are, very different in organization and content. They are different because the societies providing the education are different, and because education, whether it be formal or informal, has a purpose. That purpose is to transmit from one generation to the next the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of society, and to prepare the young people for their future membership of the society and their active participation in its maintenance and development (Nyerere, J., 1968, p. 268).

Interestingly, one of the main and first projects of colonialism was to relegate existing African systems of education and paradigms of social advancement to the scrap heap of history and civilization. As such, colonialism, at least in the African context, was inclusively psycho-social, cultural, educational, and only after all of those, political and economic.To establish the psychological domination of Africans, therefore, over millennia established indigenous programs of education (formal, informal, or otherwise) were all displayed by the colonizing powers as, at best, rudimentary, disorganized and ineffective. Indeed, this was not simply an authentic component of the so-called and falsely concocted“mission civilsatrice”but a more organized project to establish, once and for all, a concretizable psycho-cultural edge for Europeans, their histories and their achievements.

Despite those claims, though, pre-colonial systems of education African systems of education were effective, indeed, highly relevant for the environments in which they were designed and implemented. The following features of indigenous African education can be considered outstanding: its close links with social life, both in a material and spiritual sense; its collective nature; its many-sidedness, and its progressive development in conformity with successive stages of physical, emotional and mental development of the child. There was no separation of education and the productive activity. Altogether, through mainly informal means, pre-colonial African education matched the realities of pre-colonial African society and produced well-rounded personalities to fit into that society.

Equally important was that because these programs of educations and the philosophical traditions on which they were standing were not alien to the lives of the Africa people, education in that era was effective in ascertaining and achieving social and economic progress possibilities that were not imposed from outside, and were, therefore, at pace with the experiences, real needs, and practical expectations of the people concerned.

ABDI A. (2006), Eurocentric Discourses and African Philosophies and Epistemologies of Education: Counter-Hegemonic Analysis and Responses. University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada