The place of African renaissance in South African education.

Author:Xulu, Victor Sibusiso
Position:P. 200-248 - Report

Some Characteristics of African Philosophy

It is of vital importance to identify characteristics of the African Philosophy in determining the relevant education perspective.

According to Wright (1979:12) African civilization is characterized by solidarity, communitarianism, traditionalism, participation against a Western individualistic and objectivist framework that has given it a civilization where a person is powerful. Secondly, Apostel (1981:145) states that the African philosophy is characterized by the initiation which is about the foundation of people in three stages, namely: laws of the home (understanding home), laws of the own body (understanding own body) and laws of the society (understanding the total physical universe).

Hence, according to Young (1937:15-94) indigenous African philosophy is characterized by: (1) group-confession wherein the moral basis upon which the goodness of the village stand and makes its demands upon all inhabitants not only upon leaders; (2) the goodness of the village rested upon the moral rather than the material; (3) the ideal of right behavior functions as an ancient and essential human decency construct which operates via a responsibility within the field of morals for the establishment, maintenance and perpetuation of a good village (the moral responsibility involved restrain from one human being over another); (4) communal bond via an African through the father is not an independent individual but a member of the family from which one cannot be detached and to which loyalty is expected. Thus, under the family group one is quite safe from interference, and anyone wishing to deal with a person can only do so by approaching first the head of the family; (5) in patrilineal organized people, the communal bond operates to prevent any self-operating individualistic development as the individual is in some way something more than just a human unit, and thus inseparable from those who were there before and equally, inseparable from those who are to come after; and (6) primitive justice based on the idea of justice in a social structure as it looks not primarily to the offender for satisfaction, but to his particular people, to the subgroup where he is a member in a village or community (thus, under patrilineal conditions, the wrongdoer's representative is his/her father or if the father is dead, the brother of the father.

It is clear here that African philosophy from the foregoing discussion is a unifying factor in the African way of life, and as such this unity has a single purpose of partnership in African education that can be feasibly realized, and arguably, teaching this Pan African unity in time and space is necessary to combat, as Carruthers (2000) articulates, the divide and conquer strategy of the oppressor.

An African philosophic approach is required for South African education to be responsive enough to African needs to be sufficiently inclusive and help address the restoration of African humanity through education. As discussed above African centered education is an approach celebrating the culture, heritage, contributions and traditions of all humans. Such an approach is seen as having the potential to carve the niche for African culture and traditions to be preserved, and refined and observed in its purest form. Apparently, it all boils down to actually redefining South African philosophy of education to clearly articulate African philosophy.

Sensibly, redefining education demands African communal thought for it to describe African people it purports to serve. Unavoidably so, the revision of African paradigm focusses also on the priority of restoring African humanity (Carruthers 2000) and the recognition of the historical and cultural unity of African people as discussed in understanding the indigenous characteristics of African philosophy. Therefore, the African centered curriculum should be designed from an African psychological and philosophical perspectives tabled in learning activities, African principles of behavior and African group ethics relevant to an Afrocentric curriculum framework.

African Centered Curriculum

The African curriculum especially in African secondary schools in South Africa should be delivered based on some perspective. Thus, there is need for the curriculum to be Afrocentric, and as advocates of Afrocentric education argue (Woodson 2000) a new curriculum ought to be designed that provides a more equitable treatment of. African culture (giving more presence to the African history, recognizing African values and achievements, as well as white oppression), would reduce bias, prejudice, racism, arrogance, and intolerance among white students and would improve the self-esteem, the self-respect and the humanity of Black students. Hence, an African centered curriculum that should aim at producing men and women who possess both culture and expert knowledge in some special direction. Whitehead (1959:1) says curriculum will be effective if it succeeds in providing expert knowledge which is valuable intellectual development and self-development, as well as culture, which is an activity of thought and receptiveness to beauty and humane feelings.

Designing an African curriculum model for African Renaissance education is not without challenges. Steyn and Vilioen (1991:241) put forward two crucial "onderwysuitdagings" as educational challenges to an African curriculum design. First, "om die mannekragbehoeftes self tevoorsien" (provision of manpower needs) which remain the core challenge on teaching and learning in the school curriculum; learners should be taught to live and work in a multicultural South Africa, and the main objective should be to make pupil curriculum relevant to the past, present and anticipated needs and experiences, and as such, the skills and contexts in which the skills were embedded ought to be culturally relevant to the learner.

The second challenge is that die vryemarkekonomie ... bied ook 'n besondere onderwysuitdaging--(challenge of the free market economy). This particular challenge calls for African people to be more occupationally adaptable and flexible during their lifetime as the workforce will need to have more relevant and equipped with transferable skills. Actually there is always a premium on initiative, motivation and problem solving skills. This means, therefore, a sound relationship between the curriculum, sensitive to economic needs to also be developed through an African centered curriculum.

Carruthers' (2000) review-of the African curriculum provided five reasons why African centered curriculum was essential and needed as a matter of urgency. First, it is essential to restore truth to the curriculum against the falsification, the deformation and mutilation of the role of Africans in world history and civilization. Secondly, it is necessary to develop a framework for cultural equality in the 21th century. More importantly, the road to multicultural equality and respect cannot even begin until Africa was restored to its proper historical and cultural position. Third, it is a fact that any culture (which had been oppressed) needs its own apparatus for its restoration, maintenance and development.

The main reason why Western culture has been dominant was because Europeans had controlled political, economic and social power, including educational policy. Fourth, it is the peculiar capability of the African centered education movement to provide the leadership in education reform. Hence, the African centered education project provides an open-ended critique of Western education which is a necessary aspect of the reform of education. Without this critique and the organizational pressure, multi-culturalism would remain an abstraction capable of being used to perpetuate the Eurocentric and anti-African curriculum.

Reference in the study by Carruthers (ibid) was on the United States; however, the reason refers to our similar situation in South Africa as in the U.S. The nature of the population composition in South Africa was composed of a variety of ethnic and racial groups, and undoubtedly, the European curriculum more or less served the cultural interest of most European ethnic groups. However, it did not serve the cultural interest of most people of African descent, therefore, it is logical that Africans in schools should be taught from an African perspective. Hence, in this reality, an African centered curriculum can be multicultural in nature so it can be the African apparatus to restore and develop African people.

Understandably so, an African centered curriculum needs to reflect an essence of a multicultural approach, and although detailing multicultural curriculum was not the intent of this research, it is important in relation to the African Renaissance, and education. This is a programme of learning which has as its focus cultural diversity which implies knowledge of different cultures and groups and skills to cope with when dealing with diversity (RAU-Stucly Guide 2000:28). Important in this approach is learning about one's own culture to establish identity and self-pride, as a person has the right to a positive identification with one's historical past, but it does not imply an uncritical debate with one's heritage. Therefore, the African centered curriculum should aim at the multicultural curriculum, striking a balance between the unique culture of the individual and a more universal common culture and heritage.

There is need to concretize strategies that need to be taken to make multicultural sensitive curriculum approaches a living reality. It must match the learner's competence with intended outcomes. Eventually, schooling needs to reflect on the many aspects of cultural diversity among different groups to fill the aspirations of learners with special educational needs. Other issues that need attention are the readiness level of learners and the climate of the school or institution...

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