African-Centered Internet Literacy: An Ubuntugogy Metadata Approach.

AuthorBangura, Abdul Karim


The inspiration for this paper was given birth by a suggestion from the referees of a paper titled "Generating Metadata to Study and Teach about African Issues" in Information Technology and People (2014) Faleh Alshameri and I wrote. We had mentioned and briefly discussed the Ubuntugogy paradigm in that paper, which prompted the referees to suggest that we write another paper dealing with how metadata applications can be utilized to advance the paradigm. This paper is the outgrowth of their suggestion, without Alshameri who did not show much interest in doing so. The paper is divided into three major sections and a conclusion. The first section introduces the subject being examined. The second section entails a summary of the presuppositions and requirements for Ubuntugogy as illustrated in my works on the subject for those readers who may not be familiar with the paradigm. The third section proposes metadata applications to advance the paradigm. The paper is important because as Alshameri and I have demonstrated, the capabilities of generating and collecting data have been increasing rapidly. The computerization of many business and government transactions with the attendant advances in data collection tools has provided huge amounts of data. Millions of databases have been employed in business management, government administration, scientific and engineering management, and many other applications. This explosive growth in data and databases has generated an urgent need for new techniques and tools that can intelligently and automatically transform the processed data into useful information and knowledge. An Ubuntugogy metadata mining approach can therefore prove to be quite useful in advancing African-centered Internet literacy.


As I did in my book titled Toyin Falola and African Epistemologies, (1) I must begin by stating here that the theoretical postulates upon which the discussion in this paper is grounded can be found in my articles titled "Ubuntugogy: An African Educational Paradigm that Transcends Pedagogy, Andragogy, Ergonagy, and Heutagogy" and "Pedagogy and Foreign Language Teaching in the United States: Andragogy to the Rescue." (2) I also must add that the theoretical renderings here are relatively brief; thus, the interested reader can consult the cited book and articles for details.

The immediate question that arises here is the following: What do these paradigms mean? As I have defined them in my writings, Ubuntugogy is "the art and science of teaching and learning undergirded by humanity towards others." (3) Therefore, as I also argued, the salvation of African people hinges upon employing indigenous African educational paradigms that can be subsumed under the rubric of Ubuntugogy, which "transcends Pedagogy (the art and science of teaching), Andragogy (the art and science of helping adults learn), Ergonagy (the art and science of helping people learn to work), and Heutagogy (the study of self-determined learning)." (4)

Thus, my major objective in this paper is to show that there are alternative epistemologies to the Western variety. Data are organized differently; the use of data is subject to an agenda in relation to the definition of society, and people imagine data's future use in various ways. While not dismissing Western knowledge, the paper validates indigenous African ways of thinking. (5)

As I argue in the preceding works, after almost three centuries of employing Western educational approaches, many African societies are still characterized by low literacy rates (based on Western standards), civil conflicts, and underdevelopment. It is obvious that Western educational paradigms, which are not indigenous to African people, have to be questioned. At least two major questions emerge: (1) Why have Western educational systems yielded limited benefits for a large number of African people? (2) Did Western educational systems infiltrate African societies because African people lacked their own?

In response to the first question, I point out in my works that as Kofi Nyidevu Awoonor argues about African political systems and as I argue similarly about African educational systems, Western structures are incompatible with African systems because the former are based on a concept that fractures African life. They are based upon a Eurocentric division of labor theory that divorces education from politics, religion, economics, and the social institutions of family, group, or people. This fragmentation theory results from Eurocentric epistemology and an intrinsic approach to subsistence that has its beginnings in Greco-Roman and, subsequently, Judeo-Christian thought. (6)

To the second question, I state in my writings aforementioned that many African people, including the educated ones, continue to live in two worlds: the traditional and the modern scientific. When modern hospitals fail to cure a disease, the patient goes to the traditional doctor. In fact, some people know which disease to refer to which doctor. (7) In sum, Christianity, colonialism, and Western education have failed to completely uproot the African from his/her cultural world. The people who live in these two worlds are often confused because both worlds seem to yield appropriate fruits. Consequently, a new culture has emerged: it is a mixture of the African culture and the European culture. It is to this new culture that Ubuntugogy as an African educational paradigm can respond positively.

Presuppositions and Requirements for Ubuntugogy

The presuppositions and requirements for Ubuntugogy become abundantly evident when the paradigm is contrasted with its counterparts mentioned earlier. Also, as I stated before, the discussion here is drawn from my works adduced in the introductory section of this paper. As I recount in those works, public administration specialists Danny Balfour and Frank Marini have done an excellent job in summarizing the fundamental distinction between Pedagogy and Andragogy. Some aspects of the discussion in this section draw from their analytical framework. (8)

For many decades now, some adult education specialists have employed the term Andragogy to describe the philosophy, principles, and practices that they have found most useful in dealing with the special learning needs and attributes of adult learning, as unmistakable from Pedagogy (an approach to education that assumes student-as-child). In 1985, Joseph Davenport and his colleagues grappled with the controversial issues surrounding the concept of Andragogy, including differing philosophical orientations, the classification of Andragogy, and the general relevance of the term "adult education." They also looked at the exceptive spotlight on teaching and learning and discerning variations between Andragogy and Pedagogy. (9) Indeed, as Popie Marinou Mohring has pointed out, the derisive meaning attributed to Pedagogy as a mechanism used to teach children who are devoid of knowledge or understanding in general subverts its earlier and entrenched meaning, which did not focus solely on children or accentuate the peculiarities imputed to it in the Andragogy literature. (10)

Despite the shortcomings of the way the Pedagogy concept has been treated in the adult education literature, the approach is not without justification. A great deal of evidence exists in education at all levels to support the claim that students are treated as lacking knowledge or awareness of the subject matter they intend to study. It therefore makes sense to treat the terms Pedagogy and Andragogy as the adult education literature has used them, like "pure types" or "ideal types" in the Weberian sense, or "models" as the concept is commonly employed in contemporary social science. This will allow one to view the two concepts as extreme positions on a continuum of approaches to teaching, where no one teacher's approach is likely to be an unadulterated or complete example of either. (11)

The basic difference between Pedagogy and Andragogy is that Pedagogy treats learners as passive and dependent individuals and Andragogy threats them as relatively autonomous and self-directed individuals. Education specialist Malcolm Knowles notes that much of what is commonly conceptualized as education and teaching is the outcome of attempts to transmit knowledge and culture to children under conditions of compulsory attendance. (12) Knowles and other scholars in the adult education domain, such as Barry Bright, Stephen Brookfield, and John Ingalls, see Pedagogy as a method that developed in such a context and that has inappropriately permeated all of education, including adult education. (13) Pedagogy, then, is problematic for educating African people not so much because its assumptions may be oriented toward the learning needs of children as because they are associated with specific educational objectives and settings. Consequently, Pedagogy does not provide a comprehensive model for learning about African phenomena by either children or adults. Specifically, Pedagogy is aimed at transmitting knowledge to learners who are presumed not to have the means or ability to learn on their own. It is characterized by a relationship of dependency between teacher and learner, where the latter is mostly passive and is taught by, or informed by, the former. Pedagogy assumes that the learner lacks relevant knowledge and experience and generally is incapable of determining the learning or educational agenda. As such, the agenda is to be set by the teacher or educational institution. This educational agenda, according to Brookfield, is based on subjects sequenced in terms of level of difficulty and the skill level of the learner. (14)

Pedagogy is familiar to most of us from at least part of our early school days. It probably can be effective and appropriate, given certain educational goals, participants, settings, and subject matter. Moreover, it can be applied to both children...

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