European social values dominate the institutions of ‘learning’ in South Africa

2015-08-21 07:46

It seems to me that, the African social system of raising children is different from that of modern European social systems.

In Africa, the belief is that the child belongs not only to the nuclear parents nor immediate family but to the community and the community will teach this child. The assumption of course is that the community is upholding righteous principles. In this social system, children make use of whatever 'equipment' or tools they find, and they make something out of it e.g. designing a car with wires, creating something using clay, drawing etc.Basically, there is a lot of experimenting in this culture when it comes to learning.

Education feeds curiosity, it is not a ‘yardstick’ for entry to a given job. Such is a ‘prestige’ of experience which includes age--Africans attach so much value to age, hence, the elderly are known as keepers of knowledge.

However, in the Eurocentric social systems, a child is taught and expected to regurgitate what parents, teachers and everyone who  is involved teaches them (mostly immediate family). In this culture, children are brought toys--and these toys have age restrictions, they have people designing these toys for them because their lives are ‘cut out for them’--there is actually a standard that they must follow and prescribed stages that they must undergo.

Sigmund Freud and other Psychology theorists that followed after Freud’s psychoanalysis stages of development confirm this. Freud made is so easy to track the stages of development of a European child, making claims that, if any stage has been skipped, the child will in the future regress to the skipped stages.

The children of this culture do exactly as their fathers or forefathers did, they follow the same path and either be greater or remain in the shadow of their parents.

Africans on the other side, well, before Eurocentric premised 'modernisation', children had diverse social skills set with contributions from community and nature. There were no strict rules of engagement in terms of development of children. Nature was allowed to take its course on children, and they would turn out to be what the 'creator' would have wanted them to be.The community played a major role in the development of the child, and the community was not as corrupted as it is in the post-colonial and modern day Africa.

In 1984, Pretoria News covered a story which was a review of Professor D.A Kotze’s book titled “Development Policies and approaches in Southern Africa”. A point is made on the book that, “... ‘Europeans’ destroyed something valuable in the traditional way of life of the people of Africa and that--principally in South Africa today” (Pretoria News, 1984).

Stokely Carmichael in 1969 argued that “colonisation deals with destroying the person’s culture, his language, his identification, his total humanity-when one is colonised one is totally dehumanised". Steve Biko would later pick this up in the early 70s that SA ‘blacks’ were stripped their dignity, humanity by the Apartheid government.

Hence, when arguing for the existence of Black Consciousness (BC) Movement, in the book titled “Bounds of Possibility”, one of Africa’s greatest intellectuals, the late Professor Mbulelo Mzamane argues that BC attempted to create a possibility of a black identity which had been eroded by European settlers as alluded to above, meaning, in essence, “Black Consciousness was counter-hegemonic in its thrust and set itself the task of counteracting the cultural imperialism that had sapped the spirit and being of the racially oppressed” (p 193). In doing so, argues Mzamane, BC put culture at the centre of achieving a unified behaviour and bring about meaningful practices that all Africans could identify with and help transform their situation all by themselves.

Well, the BC movement never gained consciousness after 1994. The ANC government’s preoccupation with the lifestyle and European modernity sought to completely erase the cultural renewal that was pursued by the BC movement.

The likes of President Thabo Mbeki made noises about African Renaissance whose posits were entirely Eurocentric, what I call ‘Europeanisation of Africa’. A strategy that saw an increase and celebration of emerging ‘Black’ middle class whose values were, and still are entirely those of the system that sought to erase the African way of life.

—this resulted in more African parents taking their children to schools with a Eurocentric social system, often called ‘Private Schools’.

The economy demanded and still demands that our children be acculturated fully in the European social system for them to flourish in the modern economy. The African renaissance of the economy is predicated on the ‘best practice’ model which was and is entirely Eurocentric with IMF and World Bank dictating rules of engagement with former President Mbeki playing along as it is covered in Professor William Gumede’s book entitled “Thabo Mbeki and the battle for the soul of the ANC’.

South Africa continued with the culture of the colonisers, post democratic rule (for meaning of 'post-democracy', see Colin Crouch, 2000).

The detrimental effects of all this to the idea of education and learning was not envisaged.

With all that being said, I'm trying to bring to your attention the role of culture in education, and how much the dominant western system has corrupted and eroded not only the institutions of culture but has also eroded the very traditions that Africans believed in.

Education today is believed to lie in this one ‘zone’ called an institution, whether it is a house or building/s etc. Education is not experienced—less adventurous, if it is, it is experienced in the closed and controlled settings (e.g. a building) it flows from certain individual/s. Meaning, people learn the same thing time and time and again, because that was found to be effective, so all follow it.

And, if you look at the context above, that's the European culture, the culture of a ‘life cut out’!

It is easy now in SA to track the development of an African child. We know for instance that after he or she turns six—he or she will spend most of his time in ‘school’ till grade 12, after that, tertiary, and if he is lucky after tertiary, he will be employed.‘Life cut out’

Due to the ‘life cut out’, we take our children to the ‘best’ Schools, schools that happen to be premised on the European social systems. Learning is premised on European culture of education which I have highlighted in the beginning paragraphs. Learners’ creativity is limited to the established norms, so if your child is good in artistic works, their creativity will be shaped to suit a certain context of art—any form of creativity that is natural is today moulded to adhere to the parameters of European culturally premised forms of learning—that of being directed, being led, being coached—with mentorship only spoken about and never practiced.

The system appears to work because as I have mentioned, the economic system, in fact the global environment expects graduates who have that acculturation. It works also because those who wield this global village are Eurocentric in their approach.

So, it is good to have your children ‘indoctrinated’ in institutions that we call ‘schools’.

This is because, due to this culture of modernisation which has corrupted our society, it is the best option to have your children indoctrinated with the principles and ideas of the modernised society—and failure to do so, your children will remain at the bottom of the trail.

—and, as we know, more and more African parents are failing to take their children to these schools e.g. Hilton, San Andrews, Kingwood etc. because they cannot afford to even put bread on the table, how much more ‘buying’ education at +-100 000 a year. Education is bought today, it has been commodified, and you pay a fortune to have your children ‘educated’.

As a result, the majority of children who come from poor families remain at what I call the “community criminal chain”, they become the fresh produce of criminals—mainly because their African cultural forms of learning (enculturation) have no space in the current global environment which promotes values of the European culture—values of commodifying education and learning.

Today, our children's academic performance is determined by the marks (numbers) they score irrespective of the experience they have. Lecturers use textbooks that were printed even 10 years ago to teach students, and the aim is to make them regurgitate what is written.

Meaning, with the current system of education, our children remain dumb but have qualifications.Hence, the late American Historian, author of African Civilization Dr John Jackson once acclaimed that, these days one can find someone with a doctorate (PhD) but very stupid.

The essence of education is reduced to the knowledge of people who collected information (and who have academic qualifications usually a certificate), and no matter how outdated that information is, it is still studied because that has been made the authority in that given discipline.

Hence, an academic supervising a postgraduate student would insist that the student provides sources for each and every line on the thesis—the idea is, the argument must have scholarly backing. So the student cannot think basically.

The wisdom of elders is viewed as irrelevant and intuitive, especially if they have no academic qualifications to show—a phenomenon which is prevalent in the African social system—the western culture demands that they have a ‘paper’ to show they have knowledge—any indigenous African knowledge is dismissed

—Hence people like Credo Mutwa’s insights continue to receive enormous scrutiny to an extent of being dismissed.

So, until we redesign education and learning, Africa will remain a lapdog of the westerners who always want to lead the way forward because to them, that's how people learn and any other form of learning which might be different from what they know is labelled as useless, unscientific and intuitive.

European social systems especially with regards to education and learning have been made and accepted as ethnocentric.

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