OPINION: Education Reforms, Erase, Rewind and Modernise Some Aspects Starting with Names and Language.
| By Magezi Kirinjju
Those who have watched the slave trade television mini-series “ROOTS” cannot forget a slave named ‘Kunta Kinte’. The first ritual he went through on arrival in America was to be renamed ‘Toby’ which he resisted. He ended up being tortured to near death for him to accept this American name “Toby”. Both the slave traders and Kunta Kinte knew that names carry deep personal, cultural, familial, and historical connections. They give bearers a sense of who they are, the communities they belong to, and their place in the world. Therefore, the slave traders were torturing Kunta in order to erase his connection with Africa.
When the slave trade ended and Europeans decided to physically occupy Africa and enslave Africans in their homes, they needed to soften the ground by repeating the Kunta Kinte renaming process. But rather than torturing the entire continent into submission, they employed religion disguised as education. It wasn’t long before God-fearing Africans found themselves with new fancy names while working in gold and copper mines, cotton and tea fields as slaves. Arab slave traders also used conquests and bribery to force black Africans to adopt Arabic names disguised as Islamic names. Hence, the most enduring characteristic of Sub-Saharan African capitulation to foreign influences is the European and Arabic names we call ourselves.
This brings me back to the ministry of education which, under The Education Policy Review Commission is seeking and collecting public views and proposals on the current education system in Uganda with a view to reforming it. The ministry says the main aim of this process is to hear from all stakeholders so that they can adopt effective and relevant education policy that will drive Uganda to the next level politically, economically, technologically and culturally.
My thinking is why don’t we start by rewinding and erasing a few things in the sector, especially those that were introduced by European colonialists with the intention to humiliate and degrade Africans? I know it’s impossible to get rid of foreign religious beliefs today but we can teach our children that one can be a God or Allah loving Christian and or Muslim without adopting European and Arabic names. Neither the Bible nor the Koran teaches name adoption as proof of devotion to God/Allah. The names were meant to isolate and identify those who have gone European and or gone Arabic, there was and still is nothing Godly about them.
While we shall remain free to worship our adopted Gods, get baptized and pray on Friday and Sunday, we should not carry religious names on our official national documents. The education ministry should make it mandatory that schools only register indigenous names for pupils and students and national identity cards and passports should bear only local names. Using our local names has the benefit of eliminating religious discrimination in our society as well.
Another area that needs modernisation is the language of instruction in the learning process. Uganda teaches in English, adapted from the colonising British. As we all know, European occupation distorted African maps and merged nations and tribes with zero regards for compatibility. This meant Ugandans could not unite under one language hence making it easy for English to take hold. Since African Union adopted Swahili as the official working language, considering that much of East Africa already speak it, Uganda only needs to find teachers who are proficient in Swahili.
For Uganda and Africa, in general, to develop to the next level, we must take back our education, we must own the processes that facilitate the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, morals, beliefs, habits, and personal development. Africa must revive the holistic systems that played an important role in moulding the next generation that involved physical training, respect for the elders and peers, character development, intellectual and vocational training.
Using modern methods and technologies, Uganda can re-invent the old African education of practical farming, fishing, cooking, carving, knitting and iron smelting. This means investing more in vocational training institutions to produce job creators as opposed to our current system which produces job seekers with Masters and PhD degrees.
Uganda’s current education system was introduced by the British to help them soften us for exploitation and churn out local enablers of this crime against humanity. Having failed to get rid of it after independence meant that we continued churning out local exploiters and even more enablers among ourselves.
Time for overhauling this education system that produces Ugandans with fancy European and Arabic names, with degrees in agriculture but cannot farm, molecular chemistry but cannot make a bomb, aviation but cannot repair a plane, Master of Business Administration but cannot run a business and veterinary doctors who cannot treat a domestic cat is long overdue.