My local Pastor (Dr Charles Peter Watt) regularly reminds me that the only time a bird cannot feed itself is when it is locked up in a cage. He relates the nature of the bird to the human mind and maintains that a closed mind can be likened to a caged bird – always needing to be fed.
“It is up to African thinkers and researchers to free their minds to discover it [the truth about Africa], and then, through their productive work in the continent's institutions of learning, to make it a living part of the daily, active consciousness of Africa's peoples,” says Babacar Sall.
I agree with Sall’s position that the time has come for African researchers to move their thinking away from colonial prototypes and press more towards models and solutions specifically designed for the African people and it all starts with the freeing of the mind as the mind is the only true thing of which we have one hundred per cent control over.
Ninety per cent of the population of Africa today only speak African languages. (Ngugi wa Thiong'o 1992: 27), yet ninety per cent of higher educational Institutions in Africa present their courses in English. Research has shown that children who study in their mother tongue usually learn better and faster than children who study in second languages. Also, pupils who start learning in their home language also perform better in examinations taken in their official language of instruction in their later school years. In addition to speech, each language carries with it an unspoken network of cultural values.
Although these values generally operate on a subliminal level, they are, nonetheless, a major force in the shaping of each person's self-awareness, identity, and interpersonal relationships (Scollon & Scollon, 1981). These values are psychological imperatives that help generate and maintain an individual's level of comfort and self-assurance, and, consequently, success in life. The above goes to show that even on an educational level, African thinkers and researchers need to free their minds and begin considering an education system fashioned by Africa and for Africa.
Just as with Afrocentricity in African American universities in the sixties, African thinkers are now faced with the advanced task of reinventing the “thinking wheel”. Consider Nigeria - Africa’s largest oil producer (13th in the world) – as an example, now although Nigeria possesses enough crude oil to comfortably service the entire West Africa, the country fails to meet its own petroleum needs. Nigeria’s daily crude oil production output and refining is almost seventy percent below capacity forcing the country to import refined petrol. To put matters into perspective, Nigeria has the second largest economy in Africa but ranks outside the top 100 countries globally by GDP, a phenomenon inconsistent with other top oil producing nations.
Maya Angelou argues that the greatest cause of all is the liberation of the mind. It is quite a sad case that the above example can be mirrored to cases of tea in Burundi, coffee in Angola, Flowers from Kenya and cocoa in Cameroun and Ivory Coast.
New Afrocentric questions arise; What would African people do if there were no white people? Should Nigeria continue to export crude oil and import refined petrol? How much does such a practice benefit the people of Nigeria and Africa as a whole? Is it economically beneficial for Ivory Coast to export all their Cocoa and import all their chocolates?
In conclusion, it is evident that effective control of the mind can only be achieved by realizing its existence. The optimal utility of the mind requires the full understanding of its operation else maximum efficiency is compromised. A mental state that deprives the mind off optimal efficiency coupled with its physical manifestation can arguably define the term - poverty.
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