Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

The African Educational Evolution: From Traditional Training to Formal Education

Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

The African Educational Evolution: From Traditional Training to Formal Education

Article excerpt


This paper attempts to critically examine the approaches that were employed by Africans in their knowledge, skills and attitudes acquisition before, after and during colonialisation of the continent. The paper looks at three distinctive epochs from which the perfect understanding of how learning in Africa transformed could be concluded.

It is notable that there was a period before Africa got colonised, which was followed by the period during colonisation, before the independence of the continent. The position that is strongly advanced through this paper is that even before colonialism the African societies offered training to their members, which was characterized by the provision of survival skills to individuals who were supposed to selflessly serve their societies. Members of African societies learnt through their interaction with their physical and spiritual milieus, as evidenced by their design of tools which they used mostly in their agro activities and in fighting for resources. The other area in which learning took place was that of spirituality or mysticism, as some superstitious members of African communities were believed to have powers of communicating with their ancestors. As noted by Westerlund (1991), the belief in the ancestors is widespread in many African agricultural areas and like divinities and nature spirits, the spirits of ancestors are thought to be intermediaries between God and humankind. The main problem that this paper is intended to advance is that Africa is regarded by some people as having not had any form of education before the arrival of the colonialists and their educational establishments or organisations. This paper therefore raises an argument against this position.

Keywords: Africa, formal education, colonialism, traditional, independence, Westernisation

1. Introduction

This paper is meant to argue that most learning that occurred in Africa was necessitated to meet the exigencies of the whole society through training of its individual members either in groups or on individual basis. This approach fostered cooperation and collaboration amongst the community members and promoted the perfection of knowledge and skills before being transmitted to posterity. According to Vanqa (1995) essentially training was intended to enable an individual to play a useful role in society. The learning of the use of words and gestures to convey messages in the most eloquent way was emphasized and rewarded by both the traditional leadership and village elders. As noted by Emeagwali (2006) Africans at various parts of the continent used a wide range of symbols and motifs for communicating ideas. It is important to mention that the learning did not follow any comprehensive and formal curricula, which in most cases resulted in important knowledge and skills getting lost when the custodians of such knowledge and skills died or lost their cognitive abilities, such as going insane.

The traditional schools, such as Bogwera and bojale in Botswana, played an important role in packaging and passing indigenous knowledge and skills orally from generation to generation. The paper argues that they were impediments to the preservation of approaches that were employed in the training and learning by members of African societies because of the secrecy that surrounded how the processes were conducted. Most importantly, the paper will demonstrate that less emphasis in the documentation of what was supposed to be learnt compromised standardization and formalization of knowledge and skills.

The paper further argues that the infiltration of Western forces during colonialism facilitated the obtrusion of western knowledge systems into African societies, which undermined the essentiality of African indigenous knowledge systems and destroyed the zeal in Africans to modernize and ameliorate their systems. The infiltration of Western knowledge systems served to re-direct development of the African continent by emphasizing its making in the image of Europe and North America. …

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