What do Walter Rodney, Felwine Sarr and Kassim Gausu Kone have in common?
These three African scholars have all talked about colonial education and the effects it has had on African students in their respective books: “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, “Afrotopia” and “Bɛlɛdugu Jamana”.
Education is often equated with intelligence, more possibilities in life, consciousness and awakening. But what happens when the type of education you're receiving comes from the people who have taken advantage of you, your labour and your natural resources?
Do we really believe that the people who committed unspeakable crimes against us will provide us with the tools to be mentally free?
Walter Rodney wrote that during colonialism European colonisers set up schools in many parts of Africa to indoctrinate the native population. In one particular case they were so successful at brainwashing Africans, that one student wrote an essay in Latin to justify the enslavement of African people.
Many families couldn't afford to pay for school so they had to stay in their village. They thought it was a disgrace, in actuality, it was very good luck. Those who didn't get colonial education were not brainwashed into believing they were in any way, shape or form inferior to Europeans. They managed to preserve their history and culture whereas those who were “educated” became poor and pathetic imitations of their oppressor.
Felwine Sarr said that African universities like the ones in Dakar, Makerere and Nairobi are still a part of a wider colonial administration. He goes on saying that: “they are not the result of African nations' will to provide themselves with means to solve social problems. Since their creation they haven't been the object of a deep structural transformation despite the growing number of African teachers and researchers. […] The teaching content, which is a copy of that of other Western universities, hasn't really evolved.”
Kassim Gausu Kone made an appeal to educated African people. He wrote that they are unable to express themselves in their African mother tongue because they study in French or English. The knowledge and information they have cannot be spread to the masses who often don't understand those languages in their basic use, let alone if used to express complex content.
As educated people, our aim should be to make education available to everybody. If we do not humble ourselves, but instead brag about our degrees and our (French or English) vocabulary, we will never be able to reach out to the people and make them aware of the things that are happening to us.
It's almost a paradox. Education should liberate us, but the more educated we are, the more we are entangled in the system we want to dismantle. The more we know, the more we separate from those who don't know. The more conscious we become, the more we brag about it without using our knowledge to empower others.
We need to be able to convert that information and use African languages to convey a message that will benefit all of us.