“What Should the Main Aim of an African Education be?” by Okuhle Qasana

Education has to liberate both the mind and the body of man. It has to make him more of a human being because he is aware of his potential as a human being, and is in a positive, life-enhancing relationship with himself, his neighbour and his environment.”
Julius Nyerere
In answering this question, it is imperative for us to first consider what an African education is. In my quest to define this concept, I came across a course offered at Stellen bosch University in South Africa called African Philosophy of Education. It was defined this way: “Simply put, an African philosophy of education is a way of asking questions about education in Africa. It allows education students to search for meanings that relate to their chosen field.” Furthermore, this philosophy approaches education in a way that aims to make education feel as real as possible by intertwining theory and practice. It emphasises the need for education that is tailored towards solving Africa’s challenges. In essence, I believe that this is what an African education should be about. It must be aligned with our reality whilst working towards solving the challenges that we face as a continent.
I completed my South African matric certificate in 2020, meaning that I was deemed ready to function as an adult and contribute to society. As I reflect, I am slightly amused because I don’t think that I was anywhere near ready. Even though I matriculated with 4 distinctions (4A-grades), I don’t think that I was adequately prepared for solving challenges facing Africa. For instance, I took Business Studies as a subject but matriculated knowing close to nothing about entrepreneurship–something that is becoming increasingly essential in solving unemployment in Africa. Currently, African education only equips us to be workers that can read, write and follow orders. We need to move beyond that. We need to focus on problem-solving; especially for the African context.
We need to be teaching young people to be critical-thinkers. That is how we will be able to solve problems. Teach us how to think, not what to think. You might then ask yourself, what problems should we be looking at? That’s where contextuality and relevance come in. Seeing that we are grooming future leaders and contributors to the function of our countries, we should equip them to solve the problems that we are faced with. The Entrepreneurial Leadership course offered at African Leadership Academy (ALA) is a great example of how teaching can be centered around equipping learners with skills and experiences that they can use to solve Africa’s challenges.
Even so, before we can attempt to solve problems, we must be knowledgeable about them. Therefore more African contribution in terms of defining education and also sourcing knowledge is necessary. Amina Mama, in ‘Is it Ethical to Study Africa?’, touches on the challenge of contribution when she says, “The marginalization of Africa within the world order is echoed in the global knowledge arena. Africa is said to contribute less than 0.5 percent of the world’s scientific publications.” Adebayo Olukoshi, in ‘Remaking African Studies in the Post-Colonial African University’, further describes this in the context of African Studies as, “…the gross under-representation of African voices in the politics of the production about the African continent.” We need to hear more African voices in the global contribution to education. African education needs an African perspective that is able to see and understand the challenges that Africa is facing. In the designing of the curriculum, we need to prioritize the contributions of African intellectuals through the content that we see in our textbooks. That way, we can make considerable strides towards molding a nation of critical thinkers and problem-solvers.
It is time that we take matters in to our own hands. An African education should empower us to be able to equip ourselves. We must be proactive and intentional about making education useful to the African society. Let us rise up to the challenge and play an active role in making Africa better for all.
By Okuhle Qasan

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