January 16, 2024

Why Africa must decolonize its educational system – Prof Falola



By  Elizabeth Osayande

LAGOS: Africa must decolonize its educational systems because what it inherited from colonial masters was not orchestrated for enlightenment and advancement or benefit of the colonies, but to achieve colonial masters’ economic and governance ambitions and aspirations .

This was the submission of Prof. Toyin Falola, a Professor of History at the University of Texas in Austin, United States, while delivering the 54th convocation lecture at the University of Lagos.

The lecture was titled: “Decolonising African  Higher Education for Transformational Development. “

He noted that even after political independence, African education was still designed to perpetuate and advance the economic and political objectives of European countries, using the elites to facilitate such. 

“One of the most important forces for driving societal transformation is the decolonisation of African higher education. From the case studies and paradigms presented, a cursory glance has been given to the prospect of this achievement, and the potentials that lie therein are immense and pivotal to our collective development. The proliferation of Afrocentric concepts and research methodologies in the amendment of the educational concept of Africa, infusion of cultural imperatives into educational settings, and African pedagogy are all vital in informing the decolonisation of African higher education.

“Certainly, there are challenges and obstacles, but they do not entirely constrict attempts to decolonise African higher education. Although there are more things we can do, at this moment,, our job is cut out for us in our pursuit of the gradual decolonisation of our higher education system. It is a Herculean task, but as the saying goes, “The best way to eat a whole elephant is to take one bite at a time.”

He also suggested that each university create and run programmes peculiar to their environments and societies. 

“Also, the university should take on projects that would ensure that they earn revenue, which would be used to fund the creation of infrastructures that showcase decolonisation and academic excellence. With its strong alumni network, including influential figures, the University of Lagos, for instance, can leverage this to collaborate and invest in the institution, ensuring that the next generation of students not only inherit the legacy but also enjoy enhanced facilities. 

“However, this does not negate the responsibility of the federal government to address this situation and provide infrastructural support to this esteemed federal university.

“Despite the desire for development and change in Nigerian higher institutions, these institutions cannot grow above and beyond the NUC and BMAS. The function of NUC and BMAS in advancing decolonisation and the development of education in Nigerian universities is that of a trailblazer, as their endeavours are fundamentally crucial and indispensable. This role is recognised given the internal deficiencies that pose significant barriers to the attainment of the development of the educational system. 

“The NUC and BMAS must be up to speed with the current academic needs of the higher education system in Nigeria. While the emphasis on educational benchmarks is essential, it seems that the commission has neglected other key aspects and facets of the higher education system. This must change if progress is to be made in our institutions and if the above recommendations will be sustainable,” he suggested. 

Earlier on the Vice Chancellor, UNILAG. Prof. Folasade Ogunsola, in her welcome address, stated that the need for Africans to discover who they are, among other things, informed the choice of the theme of the convocation lecture.  

Her words: “At the University of Lagos, we recognize that our role is to develop minds so that people can be the best version of themselves with the capacity to develop their nation and be fit for purpose for the 4th industrial revolution. In academia, we develop thinkers and if Nigeria is to reach its full potential, we as a nation must start thinking right. Who do we think we are? what do we say we are? it is our belief in who we think we are that will determine the choices we make. The choices we make will guide our actions and the collective actions will be what Nigeria will be. 

“The narrative, presently, about Nigeria is all about its negatives. Unfortunately, this narrative is prevalent among Nigerians. Why do we see only what is wrong with us? Even our policies and processes are so focused on what is wrong that we make life difficult for ourselves. Why do we have this narrative? What is wrong with our mindset? As part of our contributions towards promoting discussions that would enable a paradigm shift in the way we think it is important that we examine our tertiary education system in Africa because it is where we shape minds for national development.  Africa has lagged in development in the comity of Nations. Our current educational system modelled on colonial constructs has not been able to drive the all-around development, revolutionary ideas, and industries that we need despite our population, heterogeneity and other positive demographic factors. Facts have also shown that our deficit in these critical areas isn’t due to a lack of intellect or human capacities. What we know is that we constantly seek validation from our colonial past. There is still a lack of confidence in who we are! It does not appear that being African is enough. How do we become enough?”