More than six decades after the end of colonialism, African educational institutions continue to be deeply rooted in colonial thinking. University courses across the continent remain predominantly Eurocentric, controlled by Western and capitalist worldviews.
There is no better time to unpack the project of decolonizing education in Africa than this May, when the continent celebrates Africa Month. Many African academics are terrified of the concept of decolonization, leading them to ask questions like: What do they mean by decolonization? Returning to the Stone Age? Do they want to teach exclusively about Africa? Do they want Africa to be isolated from the rest of the world?
What Does Educational Decolonization Mean in Africa?
Unlike what some academics fear, decolonization does not imply a return to the Stone Age. It's also not about shutting off the rest of the world from African educational institutions. As Achille Mbembe points out, "Decolonization is not about shutting the door on European or other traditions."
Decolonization refers to the dismantling of colonialist knowledge systems and social practices in order to centralize Africa's own. It is an attempt to make African knowledge valid and relevant in the production of global knowledge.
What is usually referred to as African indigenous knowledge should be recognized as part of human knowledge and incorporated into the global knowledge system. This also includes decolonizing the continent's colonial languages as languages for teaching.
Decolonizing education also entails fundamental curriculum rethinking and reframing, as well as placing Africa at the center of teaching, learning, and research. It's also about recreating Africa from many angles and allowing Africa to tell its own stories in university classrooms.
People in Africa were degraded, exploited, and subjugated by the world views conveyed through colonial knowledge systems. These viewpoints are still prevalent in African universities today. Texts and theories are presented to black students that ignore their own history, lived experiences, and dreams.
Decolonized Education in Africa is Already a Reality.
In a number of African colleges, decolonizing education is already a reality. For example, the 1966 Makerere Convention, which gave birth to the African Writers' Series, is one clear act of decolonization in the admission of African literature into so-called mainstream literature. Beyond that, domains such as natural sciences across the continent use local environments to advance locally situated knowledge to address social ills.
Furthermore, the indigenization of glossaries, which began more than ten years ago at the University of South Africa (Unisa), is a form of decolonization in which knowledge and information are presented and accessed in the student's own language and lens, rather than through a western lens.
Unisa recently began writing tests in all official South African languages by translating tutorial papers and study materials into official African languages first. These are significant signs that education decolonization is a reality in Africa.
Decolonizing the mind
Scholars of decolonization have claimed that decolonizing the mind is the first step toward the successful decolonization of education in Africa. All and any other sort of change that may be made begins with cognitive transformation. More than just altering the curriculum is required as part of the decolonization attempt, according to Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong'o.
Africans must understand that they are enmeshed in a mono-narrative of western knowledge and culture, and they must acknowledge that there are alternative, equally valid narratives that they are unaware of. This shift in one's psychological posture would allow them to seek out and implement additional knowledge and systems in their field of work.
Challenges So far
The majority of African academics are "cut from the same cloth" as Westerners and are often hesitant to dismantle colonial knowledge systems. Questions like, are these academics ready to unlearn, learn, and radically transform? Are they prepared to have their brains decolonized? If this does not happen, new generations of scholars and administrators will be needed on the continent. This may cause the decolonization process to be delayed, but Africans should be aware that it will not take time.
In African education, there has to be a centralization of all cultures and value systems, as well as a dismantling of colonial languages in the curriculum. Furthermore, in the establishment of a curriculum, schools, colleges, and universities should encourage respect for people and their cultural and knowledge systems, as well as respect for the coexistence of cultural diversity.
Students must have access to local knowledge that benefits mankind, and spaces for inter-epistemic dialogue in university curricula must be created to solve global and local challenges.