Mustapha K Darboe
My favourite dub poet Uncle Mutabaruka was once asked if he had ever been jail, agitated he appeared, and replied “I am still there trying to escape”.
For most of us, this is ridiculous because someone who is going about his business without restriction, whatsoever, is free. But that is not necessarily true.
The biggest freedom is in the mind. When the mind is not free, a person is an eternal slave. People who are conditioned to believe in certain things are also prisoners.
Education is development. Education is growth and but education is consciousness of self. The greater form of education is education of self.
Knowledge helps us to develop ourselves and our environment. This is because when people do not know who they are, any information only strays them from the path they are supposed to take.
It is like when a captain of a ship is lost, any energy he puts into running faster to arrive at anywhere only adds onto the mess because he is heading a wrong direction. Direction, which self-consciousness informs in education, is the basics that must be right.
In this light, education becomes a search for light, for consciousness, for being, for truth (if there is any) and for who one is and one wants to be. So, when one knows about one’s history, one’s past successes and failures, one is better suited to face the future. Education should empower.
Recently, Gambians have vented anger and frustration at the government and the education ministry for failures of the grade 12 students at the regional exam.
But in the Gambia, what do we call education?
We started by saying that education is people, their lives and way of living. But, while education is the biggest liberator, we must also recognized that, it is also the biggest weapon against a people. This is why the colonialists have ‘weaponised’ African education system against herself.
To destroy a people you ought to make them believe in something. The conveyor of that knowledge made easy through expression is education.
If you have ever wondered how terrorist recruit people, they just give them wrong information. But what people know of themselves not only help them grow but it also give them high self-esteem.
This is why someone once said, ‘the greatest tool in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed’.
You may have learned about raster – a consciousness of black worth, black liberation and dignity, which birthed out of the idea of pan-Africanism preached by his Royal Highness King Salasie 1.
While raster was inspired by the crowning of Salasie I and the activities of his life, its founding was a result of decades of search for truth by black people at the time.
It was Marcus Garvey, some of us believe, who professed, ‘look to Africa and when the king and the Queen are crown, then know that our freedom is at hand’. And when Salasie I was crown in 1930, a lot of rasters attached spiritual significance to it as professed by Garvey.
But, what was the mental state of black people in the Caribbean countries at the time? Though, I must hasten to state that, raster has since gone through several levels of spiritual and ideological transformation. The blacks at the time were citizens of highly poor countries being ruled by the Queen of England who was also the supreme head of the Church of England.
The Garvey prophesy offered an opportunity to the rasters to fill their void – from the hailing a white monarch to a black king— the black king that now connects them to God just like the white monarchs. Sizzla would sing “I have no white Gods, it is just a black messiah”.
One thing the raster understands is love of self which is based on the knowledge of self, education.
So do we agree that inferiority complex (hence, ‘Tubababo mang beteh’) is partly caused by mental impairment which is also caused by lack of knowledge of self?
Because to argue otherwise is to disagree that, education that does not bring transformation to an individual or society is hardly an education.
So what does our education mold an individual to be? Because I think education, like our traditional African education, must mold an individual to become a particular type of a person who will think in certain ways beneficial to the society.
As we move forward, let’s keep in mind the types of intelligence as listed below:
Naturalist (nature smart)
Musical (sound smart)
Logical-mathematical (number/reasoning smart)
Existential (life smart)
Interpersonal (people smart)
Bodily-kinesthetic (body smart)
Linguistic (word smart)
Intra-personal (self smart)
Spatial (picture smart)
Let us not forget that if there are any late comers to civilization, it is the Europeans who sold us their model of education and language. We will get to language in a bit but let’s focus on what we call education system for a while.
Our first problem is that we have an education system that does not suit people. Instead people suit it. One has to have certain kind of intelligence or certain level of patience to be educated, so to speak.
For a lot of us, the system is a prison. It is a machine of indoctrination, of oppression, designed by outsiders and sold to us.
I have grown up hating this organized system of mass scale destruction we call education in Gambia. I have watched a teacher told me about an ‘A for apple’, a fruit I would only came to see about a decade later. The x, y and z and how they add up to make sense in a math class.
Last week, I had a discussion with a friend, one of the most intelligent guy I know. He, like me, likes raster, reggae music and complex thinking. We sit down and assume and think, perhaps if Africa were not colonized, where would we have been?
Often, this guy makes more sense than me. I, myself, is not your typical educated guy.
This friend has amazing capacity to understand and do music but also for complex thinking. He deals with riddles in ways your typical Tubabu ‘Karanfa’ would struggle to comprehend. But, he, like some others, ended being confused on which carreer path to take.
It has to be English or Math. People with special intelligence in music, sports, philosophy, astrology and a lot of art fields, where do they fit? The math and English category (which often lack context)? This is the same as schooling people to go seek jobs instead of training them to be entrepreneurs in a country whose biggest problem is unemployment.
Why? Because there is no productivity in a cage. That is part of the reasons why, I hear school boys who engage ‘professors’ and tell me, “the guy is dumb”. Every human being grows with certain kind of intelligence(s) and unless we expand the scope of our education to help people develop those talents, whatever they are, they will always fail.
I cannot do what I cannot do. You may know that, our ancestry, like those in the Ethiopia, or Nubia or Great Wall of Zimbabwe or ‘Black Mauritania’ or Ancient Mali empire, are not new to education nor is it anywhere else in ancestral Africa. I was pissed by someone who asked me ‘do Mandinkas have a word for professor?’ I did not answer.
If you want to know the level of damage, the rewriting of history has done to the black world, look at how much we talk about the French revolution or the Magna Carta when talking about examples of good governance or human rights. Or even how we talk about the American democracy or respect for human rights, a country that only recognized that women and blacks are also human beings worthy of voting rights in the 60s.
Are we dumb?
No one talks about the Kurougan Fuga charter, the progressive Serere Kingdoms, Wollof kingdoms, the Sarahules and their amazing Ghana Empire that was built on trade. No one talk about the ancient universities in Africa that did amazing works. We have seen in Timbuktoo the results of centuries of amazing scholarly work by Africans.
Even ancient Egypt was a country of black people. Cheikh Anta Diop proved that and many others did before and after him.
But why am I even speaking to you in English? That is the first problem. To acquire a new identity, one has to lose the other or lose something. Identity is culture.
Language is the shelter of a culture. One’s language is his or her culture and also the conveyor of cultural knowledge. That is the basis of consciousness and if that is wrong, everything is wrong.
When you want to kill a culture of a people or destroy a people, you first take away their language. When language dies, culture dies with it. When a people’s culture is destroyed, they perish. When that happens, life in itself becomes passive instead of active because you resort to mimicking others you can never be. I will never be a British, no matter how good my English gets or how well the suit fits my body.
When I was going to school in the village, I was being repeatedly told, when learning roman letters, that ‘A is for apple’. This created two confusions. First is, I do not know what A is because that is what I have come to school to learn. Second, I do not know what an apple was. Apple which is not an indigenous Gambian fruit is available mostly, if not entirely, in urban areas. Here is a typical example of how one’s culture and environment influence the language. Someone in whose country apple exist wrote the book and we care not to change it.
The Chinese say “To know and not to act is not to know”.
Until you read from me again, may we regain our consciousness as a people.