The importance of Education for Africans

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(from my archive. First published in The African Journal in 1999)


“Along the same lines, in order to counter the budding anti-intellectualism evident throughout [Black] Africa among those in political power, as if it were a defense mechanism, Intellectuals have to be able to present perspectives for Africa, solutions to problems on a national scale which allow no other possible ways.

The intellectuals must gain respect at the same time through their efficiency, their taste of unselfish work on behalf of the people, and their clarity. They must be sincere, and to do that they must truly feel themselves animated by an ideal that will stand come what may. They must set themselves apart from those minds which shine only with deceptive light, as artificial as it is sterile, the flashy pseudo-intelligences that so readily prove to be insignificant. self-defense anti-intellectualism would spell a new loss of Africa if it were to become general. We cannot afford the luxury of rejecting what we have most been missing during these last three centuries”.
Cheikh Anta Diop,’ Black Africa: The Economic and Cultural Basis for a Federated States,’ Africa World press edition, pp.27-28

On February 13th, 1995, I was overcome with huge sadness as I watched the BBC programme, PANORAMA. It was a documentary on poverty in Britain. An array of evidence was assembled to show the rise in poverty-related death in the empire, where the sun was supposed not to set.

For two reasons I was very sad.

First, as a human being, it pains that some people have to lose their lives simply because of the greediness of a few. Is every life not of equal importance?

Secondly, as an African, I was sad to think that there are still some Africans, especially the political leaders who are still waiting for ‘Economic Aid’ from a country like Britain.

Azanian President Mandela was quoted recently as berating the West for giving him little aid. ‘Mere peanuts,’ was the word he used to describe what has been provided to his country by the US.

To these misleaders, Euro-Americans have put aside a vast gold bullion they will send to Africa sometime in the near future. Are we ever going to learn that this is simply fantasy! That this belief can easily be shattered by anyone who has an idea of what capitalism is all about, hasn’t stopped African leaders from believing them. Like the obedient children that they are, they keep making a run of Western presidential villas, begging for aid. And like the stupid children that they are, they are been tossed around. Moronic to the core, they keep begging, they keep on pleading, they keep on beseeching. All they have to do is pick up any good book of history and learn that Europeans are interested in only one thing, their SELF-INTERESTS.

Our wealth is being looted by guests we allowed into our homes who turned around to drive us out. Foreigners who destroyed our societies and foisted on us their depraved ideologies and raving desert gods. It is to these same historic oppressors of our race that our misleaders are looking up to for succor. Dirty-washed into having NO CONFIDENCE in themselves or in their own people, they continue to delude themselves that their SALVATION lies outside of themselves.

I restate here my opinion that Africa will never be reconstructed until enough of her children are committed enough to help in the reconstruction. That is why I told whoever will listen that committed Africans should get all the technical knowledge they could get FROM ANYWHERE and join the battle for Africa’s liberation. Enough of waiting for messiahs, for the Mandelas. Each and every one of us committed should do his\her littlest best in whatever field of endeavor s\he knows best.

It is not only the entrepreneurs to build our industries, the technicians, technologists and the scientists to think and to design things that we will need. They are very important and we certainly will need them. But we will need also educators to give our children a proper education. We will need musicians to sing, dance and wax lyrical about Africa, the same way other people are waxing sentimental about themselves, even when they are ugly by their own standards. We need people who are animated with the ideal of liberating Africa – mentally, physically, culturally, psychologically and spiritually.

Enough of slumbering. As Brother Jimmy Cliff lamented in his ‘AMERICA DREAM,’: ‘Why do you slumber from January to December; Dream only last while you sleep.’

We all have to do our individual best to help in the struggle. We have to get committed patriots prepared to destroy the century-old works of the foreigners who have totally polluted our minds and our psyches; who have taught us to hate ourselves and everything that was good in our society. Those who said that we were primitive because we prayed to wooden images of our gods, yet turned around and gave us a wooden and plastic cross image of his own god. We are committed to destroying the lies of those who taught us to laugh at our own gods.

Again, I reiterated that I make no distinction between Continental or Diasporan Africans. One was forced from the motherland by the trans-Atlantic slavery; the other by modern-day slavery of the IMF, SAP and the huge misnomer, ‘World Bank.’

More importantly, though, as an African, you are not doing anyone a favor if you waste your time in Euro-America having a ‘good time.’ I believe that every African in this societies should always remember that s\he’s not here as a matter of choice. We should always keep in mind that circumstances beyond our control brought us here. That is why we should try and get all the technical\knowledge education to equip ourselves for the battles\struggles ahead.

The only thing an African has to do is ask him\herself why Africa, the best minerally-endowed continent in the world is in such a mess? The answer, IMO, is simple: non-Africans are managing our resources! How and why are they doing it? Again, the answer is simple: they have got the technical knowledge. The only thing available in Europe that we lack in Africa is the technical knowledge to utilize our resources and create better living conditions for our people. That is why it behooves all Africans in this country to strive to study whatever they can.

What fun can you have in Euro-America that you cannot have in Africa? Even the most rabid of the European-supremacists agree that Africa’s natural beauty surpasses that of Europe. It is the belief of this writer that were Europeans to own Africa, they will guard it so jealously that no non-European will be allowed in, no matter how long your visa, staying or residence or working permit or green-card, or yellow-card or whatever card you need to stay wherever you are! Look at what song-and-dance they are making about their polluted, flat, barren real estate – Europe!

And brother, have you asked yourself if you come to Euro-America to have fun? It is sad when we see brothers with four televisions in their homes, yet not a single book on any subject. There are a lot of Africans in this country who do not read anything more serious than their television guides or the labels on their CDs.

It is the hour of straight-talk, brothers\sisters – let’s get serious. If at the end of the day, such brother discovers that he has been wasting his time thinking that he was having a grand time, is he right to blame the ‘system?’ No.

It is stupid to expect your oppressor to teach you how to overthrow him. Do not wait until your oppressor develops a Christian or Islamic conscience to remove the yoke of oppression – no man of conscience oppresses another man.

The best thing any African can do for himself in this society is to learn something. Get a technical education before going back to the motherland. We can only take a grip on our affairs back home when we have acquired the technical knowledge to run our affairs. We can then ask the European and Asian or Arab impostor ‘What obscure technical knowledge are you here to impart?’ Let’s see them squirm in discomfort then. These looters and thieves are not in Africa to develop anything aside from their bank accounts and their own countries. This we have to get straight. We shall continue to welcome those we visitors as we have done for ages. But we will end the Master-Slave relationship the foreigners have imposed upon us.

No society has been developed by charity, and none shall ever be. No society has ever been developed by foreigners, and none shall ever be. Africa can only and must be developed by Africans That is why it is imperative for Africans to acquire as much education as they could get. This is not novel. The European and the Asians (including their Arab cousins) learned, borrowed and stole a lot from Africans when we were at the pinnacle of our glory. It is hard to imagine any idea in Europe today that was not borrowed or stolen from other people. Mathematics, astronomy, and agriculture they got from Africans. Remember that even their spaghetti was nothing more than Chinese noodles!

The problem with most of us is that we confuse pleasure with happiness. We pursue the former at the expense of the other. This should not be so. We measure our self-worth by the number of material possessions we acquire. A lot of us sat glued to television sets watching stupid westerns like – ‘The Bold and The Beautiful.’ At the end of the day, we start feeling sorry for ourselves. Hollywood is making good money at the expense of many brothers. ‘Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves could free our minds.’ This instructive message was imparted by one of our prophets, Bob Marley.

It is silly, as some brothers think, to await the white man to teach us anything positive about ourselves. The whole edifice of the ‘western civilization’ is constructed on the gigantic lie of a great western heritage. It was built on the falsehood that Europeans were great people, and have been historically so.

That is why they keep telling you about Greek civilization while omitting the Ethiopian, Nubian and the Egyptian civilizations which preceded Greece by several millennia. That is why when they tell you about Egypt, they cleverly impute some European or Asiatic origin. That is why they keep shifting the geography of the country, placing it either in Southern Europe or Asia Minor! As soon as we can explode this myth of a glorious European past, the whole edifice collapse like a pack of cards. The European arrogance, its pretensions, his swollen vain-glory will all be laid to shambles.

That is why the Europeans are tenaciously propping up the feeble structure with more monstrous lies. This is reflected in the movies they make; the books they write; the religious sermons they preach.

All these are carriers of a pseudo-culture for the European. When Hollywood made the film about Hannibal, they projected him as a white man. Of course, they knew what they were doing. But to the racially-prejudiced minds of the film directors, no one that strong could be a black man! They couldn’t find an African beautiful enough to play Cleopatra; they settle for Elizabeth Taylor. However, they looked and they found Africans to play hangers-on, the brainless musclemen\women. They turned Pharaonic Egypt into a WHITEMAN’s land. Now you’re getting the story.

Why did the colonial education many of us had taught us nothing except European glories and European arts? We are never taught anything about Africa except as a footnote to Europe. As though we are mere appendages to Europeans. I understand Africans in Suriname use the same textbooks as Dutch students in Holland, with the story of snow and the rest!

In West Africa, English Language and Literature are compulsory subjects at secondary schools. African Languages and literature are not so. We have to learn Shakespeare by heart, while our great novelists remain unknown to us. I was punished for speaking my own language at secondary school because the colonialists deemed it primitive, and ‘vernaculars’ are not allowed in ‘decent schools!’

This type of mis-education has only one objective: to deny us our humanity. If during our formative years, we are taught that our language is barbaric; that our God is primitive; that what we worship are fetishism and voodooism; that our way of life is aboriginal, our psyche is being destroyed. We cannot but grow up maladjusted. Since we start to mirror ourselves by the European myopic lenses, we cannot but grow up hating our selves and our societies. This is not pop-psychology. Why do you think many people in the tropics go around in three-piece suits with bowler hats and things in the heat? Why do people eat their traditional food with European cutleries? Why are Africans taking a knife to their nose to straighten it? Why are we spending good money to bleach our skin and ‘conk’ our hair? Curiously, it was in Europe that I discover that those who taught us that black skin is evil are spending their money in a vain attempt to turn black! They are spending a huge sum on lip-sticks while condemning us for having LIPS. Now, you are getting the joke!

Europeans are never going to teach us anything positive about ourselves. If they do, they know that we will start to question a lot of their assumptions. We will start to ask how the white man managed to destroy our Gods and gave us the wooden or plastic image of a blonde, blue-eyed Palestine instead. We will start to ask why they tell us that the Jews are such a clever people and Africans are stupid when we know that the Jews were a wandering, cave-dwelling tribe with no sense of settled-life until they went to seek succor from starvation in Egypt.

We will ask what made Moses such a great prophet if he was only copying text from ancient Egyptian books. We will ask of the Arab if he knew that his mother was an African. We will be asking what philosophy Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle taught that was not found in the Egyptian Mystery Books. We will be asking why the Greeks were credited with what they looted and plagiarized from the Egyptian library at Alexandria. We will be asking why Europeans never refer to Egyptians as Africans. Why is Egypt the only country in the world that has to defend its geography? This is a potent question: If all of Europe from primitive Portugal to sophisticated Sweden claim Greece as their cultural patrimony, why couldn’t Africans claim Egypt? We will then ask what new messages Judaism, Islam, and Christianity brought into this world?

The concept of monotheism was unknown to the Hebrews until they went to Egypt. Africans in Egypt have been practicing it for eons. Pharaoh Akhnaton, the great reformer, refined it. It was while they were in Egypt that the Hebrews discovered monotheism and embraced Jehovah as their one and only God – the idea from which both Christianity and Islam were later to borrow.

If, as I said, the Europeans are never going to teach us our REAL HISTORY. It is left for us, to discover ourselves.

It is nice a lot of Africans are taking up the struggle; doing serious studies in our histories. We no longer have the excuse that there are no materials to help us. The excuse that the books are expensive also do not hold water; it depends on your priority. Most of the books cost less than the price of a liter of cheap whiskey.

And many of us do not think twice before putting down a hundred guldens for a shirt! Many of us have leather jackets that cost over five-hundred gulden (about US$250). This is, as I said, is time for some straight talk. We are not going to liberate African people with leather jackets or Gucci shoes. We can only liberate our continent with superior knowledge. If we stay in Europe and waste our money on dancing and booze, with what do we go back to fight the liberation struggle?

We cannot be anything until we develop a consciousness of our being. In effect, Self-Consciousness comes before Black- or Afro-Consciousness. It comes before Pan-Africanism. How could you be conscious of anything when you do not even know whom you are? It is important to DISCOVER who you are. Of course, you are physically there, but are you conscious of your being?

History is very important, especially for Africans. Europeans have so badly distorted history that they have reduced many of us to cringing apologetic beings. We have nothing to apologize for. As Dr. Karenga puts it, we are a non-obligated people. We do not owe the world a damn thing. The world owes us a lot.

When I say that we do not owe the world thing, no European can say that with conviction. Do not listen to those bleeding-hearts who call themselves ‘liberals.’ They are the worst scum. Those hypocrites are too happy partaking in the loot of their brethren while making noises about squirming in liberal grief!

Take a map of the world and point to any part where there is strife, where man is butchering man with Old Testament fury, you will find Europeans acting as Military Strategists, Financial Advisors, Logistics Gurus, Tactical Marvels. The whole of the so-called Western-Civilization was built on the blood of non-Westerners. It is the only civilization whichever holds mankind to ransom. They happily called one of their wretched ideas Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). What a salute to humanity!

Does it make any sense to you why intelligent beings will waste precious resources and good money to build weapons that could destroy the world several times over? Is it civilized to waste billions of dollars to build weapons and billions more to destroy them when hungry people are sleeping rough in front of their ‘White Houses?’ Is it rational to take pride in carrying pollution to the heavens after creating a huge mess here on earth? Is it rational or logical to spend billions growing unwanted food, and more billions to store and destroy them, just to prop up prices? What civilization watches people die of hunger while food is rotting in silos, all in the name of MARKET FORCES?

Is that a civilization worthy of envy?

It is vitally important that we study our history. We gave a lot to this world. Arts, science and almost everything Europe has, was borrowed or stolen from us. Europeans did not discover anything that was original. It is difficult to imagine any type of music in vogue in Europe today that did not owe its origin to Africans. Look around you. What do you think when you see disheveled Europeans, high on every concoction known to chemists, swinging wildly in crude imitations of music that Africans sing with grace? Are you not amused when you see these ‘psychos’ receiving ACADEMY, UNIVERSITY, OSCAR awards?

Piccaso became popular for ‘discovering’ Cubism. That was how Europeans slanted history to make themselves happy. Africans have been producing that form of art since the beginning of time; it is especially popular in Central Africa.

Mathematics, that most important subject, was invented by Africans; people Europeans prefer to call Egyptians. You need knowledge of geometry and trigonometry to build structures like the pyramids. Africans were smelting iron in East Africa thousands of years before Europeans know about fire. The Yorubas were living in cities when the Anglos were still in swamps.

Let us get into modern times. Europeans are claiming that Christopher Columbus discovered America, they fail to tell you that the captain of his ship was an African. His name was Pedro Alonzo Nino. The Europeans tell you that Thomas Edison invented the electric light, they don’t tell you that his lights were going off in about twenty minutes. It was an African, Lewis Latimer, who created the filament that made the light to go on indefinitely. So when you turn on your fluorescent light, you don’t have be giving praises to the white man for bringing light into your life; your brother invented it. And while the Europeans are boasting about Alexander Graham Bell inventing the telephone; they don’t tell you that it was the same Latimer who drew the patterns for all the parts. Perhaps ironically, the gunpowder, the European ‘GOD,’ was designed in Germany by an African, Berthodus Schwarz.

Last year, the BBC aired the Afro-Caribbean comedy series, ‘The Real McCoy.’ How many of us know the true story? Elijah McCoy was a genius-inventor, who had over fifty patterns to his credit. So many of his ideas were stolen by white people, that whenever a white man try to take out a patent, he was asked, ‘Did you steal it directly from McCoy or did you steal it indirectly from McCoy or is it the real McCoy?’

The more we know about history the more contempt we develop for the European-Supremacists. The whole story of a rich European legacy is totally baseless. They could be likened to the robber, who stole from all over the world and beating his chest saying, ‘Look how wealthy I am.’

How many Africans know that the strip of land over which both Spain and England are quarreling, Gibraltar, was named after an African? Brothers and sisters, do yourself a great favor, discover yourself. And please study your history.


About the Author  

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and ModernGhana, and Correspondent for the New African magazine, Femi lives in both Europe and Africa and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.

Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

He is also the Man and Machine Coordinator at Alaye Dot Biz Limited, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organization that specializes in Audio and Video Production. He loves to shoot and edit video documentaries.

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