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RETHINKING THE CONCEPT OF AFRICAN UNITY: WHY PROPER EDUCATION IS THE FIRST PLACE TO BEGIN?


The author, Jerry Tarbolo, Jr.

Many academics that I spoke with had limited faith in the possibility of an “Africa Unity”, in fact to many; African Unity is an illusion that may never be realized. One of the simple reasons for such an extreme disbelief is because of “Mis-education”. The African Union may change its objectives as many times as possible, it may even change it nomenclature as it did from the Organization of African Unity-OAU to the African Unity-AU, the problem shall continue to persist. Changing nomenclatures and objectives are just mere attempt to treat the symptoms of an acute problem.


By JERRY B. TARBOLO, JR., Guest Contributor


It may interest some of you to know that the concept of African Unity was not clearly conceptualized by our forebears; thus, leading to the formation of the Organization of African Unity. For example, the Casablanca bloc’,[1] shared a vision of the future of Africa as a confederacy which is planked on the doctrine of Pan-Africanism. The group was composed of seven states led by radical, left-wing leaders— Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Tanzania, Guinea, Libya, Mali, and Morocco. The doctrine of Pan-Africanism for them was the complete political unity of Africa; especially beginning with those states that gained their independence in the early 60s. On the other hand, the Monrovia bloc shared a vision of the future of Africa as nationalism, a doctrine, which promoted the creed that, each nation of Africa should be self-governing over Pan-Africanism, the belief that the entire continent of Africa should seek integration of their politics, economy and so forth. The Monrovia bloc[2] was composed of twelve states including Liberia, Nigeria, and most of the francophone African countries such as Senegal, Cameroon, etc. The Monrovia bloc ideas ultimately prevailed, and in 1963 both groups joined to establish the Organization and African Unity.  As I problematized the concept of “African Unity”, I have realized that the issue was not only about clarity of the concept, but also of “Identity Crisis”. You would record that most of the African States were gaining their so-called independence from their colonial masters after many years of misinformation and mis-education. They were made to believe that their slave masters were always superior human beings and they-Africans were inferior human beings. History is replete with such ill-conceived framing by those slave masters about Africans. This “identity Crisis” of who we really are as Africans; especially for those of our compatriots we sold into slavery still hunts our continent today. Our compatriots came back with a slave-master mentality, and that is why they had to borrow everything from their slave masters ranging from their political system-democracy, to their masters’ culture and religion. Additionally, some of the African States were not totally independent as they could realize. For example, most francophone states in West Africa, excluding Guinea, still pay taxes to France, and the French government decides how much these states borrow from their own reserve in the French Federal Bank. As a result of these facts and many more, I got to realize why many of my colleagues in academia still see “African Unity” as a mirage and that Africa is million miles away from achieving the said objective.

As I sat not giving up on my continent, I had a renew thought that there is a need to rethink the concept of “Africa Unity” through properly educating the new generation. I then began by asking myself, why proper education is the first place to begin? What’s the strategy we must engender to properly educate our emerging leaders in the new generation? As these questions began to resonate in my mind, I then started to probe for solutions. I realized that our school systems in most parts of West Africa have curricula that teach our pupils and students to appreciate Europe, Northern America, rather than appreciating Africa. Hence, the strategy in properly educating the new African generation would be to teach them more of African history including African civilization and teach them little or no history of the West. This strategy is not a new one (as nothing is new under the sun), but it is fascinating, because that was the same strategy used by the slave masters in mis-educating our folks yesterday as well as transmitting those same lesson plans to us in our school systems today. In his book, the “Mis-education of the Negro”, Dr. Carter G. Woodson indicated that… “Of the hundreds of Negro High Schools recently examined by an expert in the United States Bureau of Education only eighteen offer a course taking up history of the Negros, and in most of the Negro colleges and universities where the negro is thought of, the race is studied only as a problem or dismissed as of little consequences”.[3] Today such strategy has an added value on their educational system as well as their society. Why must we teach our pupils and students to appreciate the Greeks, and Hebrew? We need to teach them more on concepts of Marcus Garvey, Sheik Anta Diop, Dr. J. Henry Clark, Kwame Nkrumah, and many more great African revolutionaries and progressives. Let us embrace their strategy of teaching less of Aristotle and Plato, and teach our kids more about the “Stolen Legacy”, by George G.M. James. Knowledge is power and education is the key to acquiring knowledge. When they are properly educated they shall have the power to clearly understanding what it means to be integrated and then the “Identity Crisis” shall also vanish. French and English languages would be of the past if we go back and start to teach “Swahili or Kiswahili” which is the second largest language in Africa after Arabic. French and English cannot be our first languages in Africa and we expect to be integrated. We see today in our region the language has become a barrier. We go to our meetings we have interpreters before we can understand ourselves, yet we are yelling about “African Unity” when we have lost our identities as Africans. When we are properly educated, we would stop referring to ourselves as Francophone and Anglophone, but Africans.

I shall conclude by stating that “African Unity” is still very possible if all states in Africa could go back to the basis by using the strategy the West use in educating their generation about their greatness and contribution to the world, and teach less of Africa.  If we must attain “African Unity”, then proper education of our new generation and emerging leaders should be the first place to begin.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casablanca_Group

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monrovia_Group

[3] The Mis-Education of the Negro ,(Chapter 1, Pg. 1).


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