There are many views and stereotypes about the African continent most of which consistent around looking at the whole continent as a country, all of the same. A lot of companies, especially corporate, you will find “Africa” experts, a classification that further enhances the one dimensional view of the continent. The professionals that are often given this self-proclaimed position of Africa experts or even actually officially cold so, are often in charge of initiatives and works going on in the entire continent. However, their experiences are not continent wide. Chances are they have lived in one or two African countries, and are may be familiar with work in 2 additional countries. That leaves 50 other countries un-explored.
But lately I have been doing a lot of thinking; it is very rare to find someone who has expertise on the entire continent. Honestly speaking it is not an easy task. The mere act of achieving to travel to the 54 countries in one lifetime is a great one! So, I constantly keep asking myself, if there could be a possibility where we can actually have people that really know about the entire continent?
And then I thought of our education systems and how little we learn about Africa and its 54 countries. I’m of course referring to middle school to high school education levels as one can opt to specialize on Africa focused topics in college. Of course, we learn about colonization and the movement for freedom. But then that’s it, every other subject has very limited reference to the continent. We learn about science, biology, physics, mathematics, economics, philosophy and all the other subjects, with very little, if any, references to Africans and Africa’s contribution to these fields. The majority, and by that I mean 90 per cent quote western authors, western philosophies, western inventors, western, western, western… I believe you see where I’m going with this.
The decolonization of our education system is yet to arrive. Our schools are teaching us to be experts in western history, philosophy, etc… However, I am yet to come by an African hired by a company as a “Europe” or “Americas” or “Asia” expert. Our schools are not preparing us to live in our environments; they’re teaching us to feel as though we, as a people, have not made significant contributions to the world. If we want our youth to be part of what builds our continent, then we shall teach them about those that were that journey before them. We have to teach them of their successes and their failures.
Education is about building a generation that fits into the continuum of development of the country. That means, we are building the next generation whose role it is to learn from the previous one and build further. One of the requirements of “feeding” this continuum is transferring the knowledge and experience of the previous one. Therefore, our education system is failing at the onset on establishing whatever type of “Pan-African” vision and simply focusing on national and at times ethnic politics. This is not to say that these do not matter as they do. But in a time where Africa is the future, we are still fighting on defining our past.
I always come across a quote that is over quoted but easily forgotten. If you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you are going. If our schools do not draw out the pan-african plan at the on-set, we will never be experts of our continent, we will never be experts of our fate. It is time to change that.