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The politics of Pan African education in the 21st century


Colonial education in Africa was fundamentally aimed at teaching Africans that Europeans were superior in everything, and that the purpose of African life was to follow whatever Europeans said and go wherever they led. Africans were to stay divided and quarreling among themselves, and the only unity they were to achieve was in their agreement to allow Europeans to do whatever they wanted in Africa and to Africans. Colonial education was aimed at teaching Africans to stay dependent on White outsiders.

Neo-colonial education, similarly, has been aimed at using African educators to teach African inferiority and European superiority.

Somehow, something went wrong with that paradigm—the rest of the world evolving, perhaps—and African political independence occurred in spite of colonial education. Currently, there are 55 independent African nations, with only Ethiopia having escaped colonial denomination.

On May 25, 2013, All Africa Day, in Ethiopia at the African Union (AU) headquarters, and in Pretoria, South Africa, at an African Institute of South Africa (AISA) academic conference, after months of preparation, the gathering of AU leadership called the Assembly (heads of state), and Diaspora scholars, reassessed how far along the road to redemption and renaissance Africa has come in the last 50 years or so.

The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was born in 1963 to advocate, promote and support African liberation and nation-building. In 2001, the African Union (AU) succeeded the OAU. So, 2013 was a 50-year commemoration in African communities globally on the successes of the pathway forward.

Again, in May, 2015, there was a special academic conference held in Johannesburg, South Africa by AISA that fully addressed how to achieve Pan African education.

As a part of both the 2013 commemoration and the special conference, the AU and other Pan African advocates, recommitted themselves to achieving 21st-century Pan African education as more than mere anti-colonial education. Instead, Pan African education was and is seen as a common set of curricula measures designed to teach Africans to think of themselves as Africans first and foremost, and as Fulani, or Hausa, or Zulu, or Kikuyu, only secondarily. The African Diaspora was included in the discussion, which means an emphasis on African American rather than merely Black American.

Pan African education is to teach Africans that they must be united (a Union of African States), that they must forge and learn a single African language that all Africans will speak, and that they are stronger and more formidable when they are united and work collaboratively than when they are separated, divided and disjointed. Twenty-first-century Pan African education is about teaching all Africans the worth and positive value of being African in this world, and that being Black and African is neither a curse nor a shame.

When China became a sustained world power, Chinese wherever they were and are living in the world, felt proud of being Chinese. Similarly, Japan’s economic success has given the Japanese, whether in Los Angeles, Tokyo, New York, or wherever, added dignity and sheer pride in being Japanese. Twenty-first-century Pan African education advocates the same for Africa and Africans, wherever they may be scattered.

Establishing a united Africa as a viable picture of success, accomplishment and forward thinking and forward movement will surely uplift African people globally, no matter what language they speak.

So, one of the Herculean tasks of the present and near future is to establish Pan African educational strategies wherever African people live, including the United States, Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, etc. The re-dedication ceremonies of 2013 and again this year reminded us all of how much we need to get done and how quickly we need to get to it. Positive 21st-century Pan African education will be one of the medicines to heal the African American community’s continuing educational woes.

To achieve it, we must first see it. Awaken, African people!

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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