In Consciencism: Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonisation, Kwame Nkrumah gave what should be a stark warning to the African educated elite. He pointed out that colonial subjects in pre-independence Africa could be so seduced by Western philosophies and theories that they could surrender their whole personality to them. He added that once this happens to a colonial subject, "he loses sight of the fundamental social fact that he is a colonial subject" and he thus fails to gain anything that could free him from the shackles of colonialism.
His message was as true for the learned colonial subject as it is for the modern day African who struggles not with political decolonization but decolonization of the mind. Nkrumah was speaking to colonial subjects who he said were selected for being seemingly fit to become enlightened servants of the colonial administration. It, therefore, exposes the nature of education: to make good African servants of imperialist capital.
That the Africans were miseducated to make them worthy servants is confirmed by Stanislav Andreski in The African Predicament where he said: "the education system laid stress on literary and legal studies and neglected industrial and commercial training, not to speak of the agricultural". The educated became a new class of African elites who George Ayittey says acted like colonialists, wore their clothes, spoke their languages, drove their cars and talked about Western art and culture in an attempt to be accepted. The same elites were spoken of by Carter Woodson, in his seminal work, The Miseducation of the Negro:
The "educated Negroes" have the attitude of contempt toward their own people because in their own as well as in their mixed schools Negroes are taught to admire the Hebrew, the Greek, the Latin and the Teuton and to despise the African.
Woodson's observation was as true for the negro in the United States of America as it was for the negro in the continent of Africa. Also true was his observation that it is a lynching of the worst kind to convince the African that his black face is a curse and his struggle to change his condition is hopeless.
The education of the African has, therefore, historically sought to create a worthy, obedient servant of him. It is not meant to intellectually or economically empower him and the fact that Africa has not seen an education revolution betrays the largely uninterrupted continuation of the colonial system despite attaining independence. African universities went through a period of Africanization which has proved to be nothing but cosmetic tinkering by introducing black educators and leadership, yet the Eurocentric values of the system remain. African bodies may be in Africa but the minds are trapped in the boulevards of Paris and London. Political colonization of Africa has ensured that members of the African race suffer what Sabelo Gatsheni, calls epistemicides (the killing of African knowledge), linguisticides (the killing of African languages) and theft of history. This is all a part of the greater dehumanization project of capitalist imperialism. The African has been convinced that he has no history, he has no language and in the end, he is no human unless the West validates his humanity through education. The educated African becomes a surrogate white man with an absolute revulsion of his true identity and self. In the worst cases, the African is simply ignorant of who he truly is.
To overcome underdevelopment and dependence, Claude Ake suggests that we understand the imperialist character of Western social science and exorcise the attitudes of mind it inculcates. In a similar vein, Ashis Nandy warns that Africa should be aware of the "intimate enemy" that is colonialism. It resides in the colonized's heart, mind, and body, naturalizing itself in such a manner that the colonized internalizes Eurocentricism. Ashis prescribes the remedy as appreciating that "colonialism is, first of all, a matter of consciousness and needs to be defeated ultimately in the minds of men". The African needs to reawaken his knowledge systems. He needs to rehumanize himself as a dignified member of society with both a history and a future. Once he establishes his history, his present humanity becomes an incontrovertible given. The African, whether on the continent or elsewhere needs to reclaim his heroes and his whitewashed history as well as appreciate his future potential in global affairs. African universities and schools need to be at the forefront of the movement to decolonize the mind and re-dignify Africans.
Image Credit: UKZN