Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Education and Emancipation: An African Philosophical Perspective

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Education and Emancipation: An African Philosophical Perspective

Article excerpt


The concepts of education as well as emancipation are a veritable cauldron of interpretations and perspectives. This paper examines the nexus between education and emancipation from an African philosophical perspective. It establishes that while it is generally conceded in many quarters that education is necessarily related to emancipation, the nature of such relationship, (as to whether it is symmetrical, asymmetrical or non-symmetrical) has not been clearly articulated. In filling this vacuum, the paper not only examines the conceptual underpinnings of education and emancipation respectively, but establishes de facto that only an eclectic educational system consisting of indigenous African knowledge system and Western education can bring about holistic emancipation in contemporary Africa. Contrary to contemporary despise and neglect of indigenous knowledge system to the recluse, the paper makes case for an integration of indigenous knowledge system with other plausible forms of education in the contemporary African quest for emancipation.


The search for enlightenment and survival gave birth to education. Before the development of reading and writing, preliterate people were surrounded with other humans, animals and natural forces which made each one to struggle to survive against the other. They began to generate things that can make their lives better; these entail gathering food and providing shelter, making weapons and other tools: such skills became the cultural and educational blueprint of people, and then they began to share information about learning language; and acquiring the values, behaviour, and religious practices.

This has been transmitted from adults to children so that it could continue from generation to generation. The preliterate society shows that education has existed since antiquity and traditional African societies are not exempted. But, was education then the same thing as education now? What is education? What does emancipation connote? Was it an instrument of emancipation as it is now or not? Is one a necessarily a means to the other? How can contemporary African societies be emancipated from the shackles of ignorance, poverty, disease, social disorder, moral and political strife? Answers to these and other related questions are provided in the rest of the paper.

The Concept of Education

Akinpelu (1969:184) describes education as an initiation into a worthwhile activity. Williams Frankena (1973:21) states that education takes place 'when 'X' is fostering or seeking to foster in 'Y' some dispositions 'D' by method 'M'. By this Frankena posits that education involves two sets of people; the teacher and the learner. Education has been classified as formal, non-formal and informal. It is formal when teachers instruct students in courses of study in an organised institution, and informal when a learner is exposed to the general social process of obtaining the knowledge and skills needed to operate in a particular culture or society. By this classification, African style of education can be categorised as both informal and non-formal education and it is called 'indigenous knowledge'. This according to Jayeola-Omoyeni (2009:265) "comprise all the indigenous activities such as intellectual, moral, physical and vocational training fostered... for an all round education and development of the children, adults, groups of individuals and the various communities".

However Rodney (2000: 262) succeeded in clarifying that '... some aspects of African education were formal: that is to say, there was a specific programme and a conscious division between teachers and pupils.... The programmes of teaching were restricted to certain periods in the life of every individual, notably, the period of initiation or 'coming of age'. And also, Sophie Oluwole (2000:98) captures a clearer picture of this by emphasising the need to refute the claim that African education is informal; doing this makes it unjust for any foreigner to so regard African education. …

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