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Reforming Secondary And Higher Education Curriculum In Africa

July 23, 2021

By John Nkemnji, Ph.D.*

Dr. John Nkemnji is Professor Emeritus, Educational Technology. He is an educational consultant and a proponent of life-long learning

In a previous issue of Pan African Visions, “RECONSTRUCTING PRIMARY SCHOOL CURRICULUM IN AFRICA,” asserted that Indigenous curriculum contributed to the coercion and development of Africa. Colonial education encouraged Africans to study imperialistic concepts, which destroyed African society and compounded existing problems. A Eurocentric curriculum breeds low morale and a lack of civility amongst Africans. Modern African schools need a new inclusive Indigenous curriculum that educates all genders and covers the continent’s challenges.

            Africa needs educated youths to develop and transform the continent. Currently, the elderly leaders impede development as they indebt the continent with borrowing, and are seemingly accomplices of foreign interests. Female’s nurturing roles make them poised to lead and transform society. Educated female’s unique attributes provide great potential to move families out of poverty and away from early marriages and teen truancy. Properly educated Africans would also reduce inter-family, inter-tribal, and inter-state rivalries that stall harmony, coexistence, and development. Educated youths would be new leaders who speak and act on behalf of people.

The reconstructed primary school curriculum should cover the study of the people, places, and things in the locality, while modern secondary and higher education should prepare students to thrive in today’s world. The secondary program should continue where the primary teaching ends. The programs should broaden intellectual curiosity and transition students out of their locality to the national territory, the continent, and the world, thus building strength, stability, and self-reliance.

Despite the affirmation that Africa was the cradle for learning and civilization, scholars find more publications about Africa in libraries outside the continent. Due to lack of resources, poor internet services, and other hurdles, scholars in African institutions of higher learning sometimes write to colleagues abroad to send them literature and publications on Africa to aid their research efforts, since Africa’s publishing industry is not well-developed and there is a lack of educational materials. Education is a powerful tool for liberation or oppression; it should be structured to liberate and harness Africa’s potential.

            Foreign languages of instruction like French, English, Arabic, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish hinder authentic learning and comprehension for the nonnative speaker. This reality extinguishes indigenous languages. Nonetheless, that is not the most problematic educational issue facing the continent. Euro-centric curriculum and the educational philosophy need to be reformed to include a quality secondary education covering the breadth and depth of the people’s culture. This would serve as the key driver for reducing poverty and greed; fostering economic growth, and guaranteeing personal and professional development with egalitarian participation regardless of gender or age. Such reform would educate and decolonize the continent while encouraging lifelong learning. Schools in Africa would rely on indigenous/traditional ways of learning and knowing. It used to be that the entire village was involved in the education of its children, with students having sovereignty, voice, and integrity.

African philosophy was communal, communitarian, and based on the holistic nurturing of the community. That philosophy determined student’s and teacher’s roles; however, that is no longer taught or adhered to. In education, like in life, a guiding philosophy directs daily actions and outcomes. Indigenous educational philosophy was based on the people’s heritage, experiences, and aspirations. Given the developmental crisis on the continent, I suggest a return to the golden age – a reconstructive and progressive philosophy of education guided by a curriculum that addresses the needs of students, society, and the continent. Such a curriculum would result in the self-reliance and creativity needed to overcome the continent’s under-development.

Currently, some parents are not involved in their children’s education. They have been conditioned to think that good students merely pass exams and obtain certificates. The well-to-do parents employ teachers for after-school tutoring to help their children do well on exams. Students also play a lagging role, serving as passive learners who do not reflect on what is taught and how such learning can change them and their society. Students currently study to pass examinations, and in many cases, they mindlessly memorize what is taught. The student’s goal is to obtain a certificate, and what they learn may not be interesting, relevant, or real-life problem-solving. That, too, has to change with the plight of mass unemployment and brain drain.

Students at a high school in Bamenda, North West Region, Cameroon. Photo credit Flikr,Alberto Vaccaro

A reformed secondary and higher education curriculum can equip learners with the tools and mindset to solve the continent’s problems. A curriculum guided by a new pragmatic philosophy would define a more explicit role for students, teachers, parents, and society. The new curriculum based on local realities and indigenous educational philosophy would produce inquisitive students, active learners, critical thinkers, and problem solvers. The new curriculum would also create better teachers and a better society. At such a time, Africa would cut down corruption, mediocrity, and incompetence.

There is a misguided mindset that Africa is cursed and will remain permanently underdeveloped. The geopolitical experience of Africans must force each citizen to free themselves from such a deceitful mindset, knowing that African education is education about the people, by the people, and for the people. Let us avoid the blame game as no individual can solve the dreadful problems in the content. Given that Africa is the cradle of civilization, 21st-century African scholars must strive to unite and change the status. Let Africa form international alliances and collaborate with benevolent international institutions to educate and develop the continent. That would be a giant step in the right direction, and Africa would change from a destitute continent to one that genuinely creates knowledge, wealth, happiness, and prosperity.

*Culled from July Issue of PAV Magazine. Dr. John Nkemnji is Professor Emeritus, Educational Technology. He is an educational consultant and a proponent of life-long learning. The author expresses gratitude to those educators and students who commented on this call for Action to help restructure education for development in Africa. More helpful comments will be appreciated.

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