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17 CHAPTER 2 Know Thy Self; the African Union and the Need for African-Centred Education Baba Amani Olubanjo Buntu INTRODUCTION Education in Africa is faced with many challenges. According to UNESCO’s EFA Global Monitoring Reports, the main challenges include gender disparity , low enrolment rates for primary education, high numbers of illiteracy, shortage of qualified teachers, high drop-out rates and low teacher to student ratios.1 Further we know that African primary school enrolment and literacy rates are among the lowest in the world, that many children do not have access to school, that many schools cannot provide education to facilitate even the most basic skills and that many children lose their teachers to AIDS. In addition, there are high percentages of skills flight, in which specialists get recruited to work outside their country of origin. Largely, in post-colonial Africa education has meant the teaching of appropriated information which often is centred in core realities outside of the African continent. Few countries have embarked on teaching methods and developed material that extensively cover African history, culture, philosophy , science and development. The African Union, in its quest to unify the continent, has a critical role to play in advancing education rooted in Africa’s rich past, challenging the present and offering a future of many possibilities. This paper will look at the potential in seeing education as a transmission process – where new knowledge derives from indigenous knowledge – particularly in light of African advancement. In what way can African education draw directly from its own historical and cultural roots to ensure that education truly becomes a liberating process, both for the individual and the societies ‘the educated’ is supposed to serve? Noting that, traditionally , education in Africa used to be intrinsically interwoven with culture, spirituality and scientific knowledge, the paper will investigate some approaches to African centred education, as a means to return to an ancient principle articulated in the idiom ‘Know Thy Self’. 18 CHAPTER 2 THE PURPOSE OF EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE ‘Education is the key’. This has become a common phrase, but the question of what kind of door this proverbial key is supposed to open is often neglected. The question of challenges to education in Africa exposes a need to carefully examine the quality and relevance of contemporary education. Do educational institutions equip young women and men with skills to appropriately apply knowledge to find solutions to African problems? Does the current education system liberate the minds of young Africans and unveil the latent talents they harbour? Is the ideological focus of education centred in African realities? Without getting into a lengthy deliberation about definitions, it will serve this discussion well to articulate what is meant by education and knowledge. Zulu has introduced a brief, functional definition which we will lean on here. He sees education as ‘the transmission of values and the accumulation of knowledge within a society’.2 This, in his view, positions education as an investment for the expansion of human culture. Knowledge, however, ‘is a state of knowing or understanding, gained or retained through experience or study’.3 Both education and knowledge, therefore, impact on each other. What is known and understood in a society is essentially an outcome of education. And education will, in turn be an institutional tool for dissemination of what is known and understood. In a broad context, education is not only limited to theoretical knowledge and technology-related skills. It is also the transmission of values, communication, traditions and consciousness leading to human development. Hence, education, within a society, serves critical functions. Dr Na’im Akbar has advanced four main functions of education, by which we can evaluate its effectiveness: ■ To provide identity: as a process in which the individual is assisted in achieving full humanity ■ To transmit a legacy of competence: as a process of self-affirming information for the individual to see her/his as part of a history of innovation and possibilities ■ To transmit acquired immunities: as a process of resilience for the individual to adopt skills to be implemented when faced with threats, opposition and attack ■ To develop a shared vision: as a process in which the individual is involved in a common destiny where she/he can achieve their highest potential as part of a community of excellence.4 Having been subjected to enslavement and colonialism with after-effects on all levels of society and human life, it becomes clear that African education must be able to...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780798304054
Related ISBN
9780798303873
MARC Record
OCLC
870684317
Pages
564
Launched on MUSE
2014-02-18
Language
English
Open Access
No
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