Before I even commence my analysis of the function and value of education, I have to make it clear that I subscribe to Marcus Garvey’s version of Pan-Africanism. Chinweizu explains very well and succinctly the difference between different forms of Pan-Africanism. According to Chinweizu, there is the Duboisian Integrationist Pan-Africanism which sees as its objective the ultimate integration between whites and blacks. And there is also Nkrumah’s continentalist version, which pursues Arab and Black co-operation as envisaged by Cheik Anta Diop in his book called Black Africa the politics of a federated Africa which is highly useful for the purpose of industrialisation and attainment of Power; except for its exhortation of “Afro-Arab co-operation” which is misguided. I personally reject Nkrumah’s and Dubois’s version of Pan-Africanism.
Garvey’s version of Pan-Africanism is about African Power through economic industrialisation and military organisation which seek to protect and ensure the biological survival of Africans. In other words, it is about Africans to the exclusion of those who are not Africans. Whites and Arabs are excluded from the category of what counts as African. This exclusion is in line with Sobukwe’s and Lembede’s Africanist tradition or African Nationalism. In the words of Mabogo More, it is about “Black Solidarity” which is in line with Kwame Ture’s project and politics of Black Power.Garvey’s Pan-Africanism is historically grounded in the fact that the encounter between Africans and Arabs and Europeans made one thing clear and that is it is about Racial Power. In a nutshell, it is not about equality and inclusion, it is rather about who has Power, who exercises it, for whose benefit and at whose expense.
I believe that I have clarified my ideological position. The fundamental reason why I had to clarify my ideological standing is that ultimately how we view the function and value of education is either consciously or unconsciously informed by our ideological positions. While some ideologies are grounded in history, some are ahistorical. I am of the opinion that the question and problem of access to education is intimately correlated to how we view the function and value of education. In other words, in order to adequately comprehend the question and problem of access to education, we have to problematize the “very object” we want access to in the first place. And whether or not we perceive the need to problematize education to a great extent hinges on our ideological positions and affiliations.
Now, let us pose from a Pan-Africanist position what the function and value of education are. Following the black radical tradition subscribed to by a figure such as Amos Wilson, the answer to the primary function of education is to guarantee the survival of Africans. Relying on another important figure, namely, John Henrik Clarke, we can add a rider to the above and posit that the primary function of education is Power; which will ultimately guarantee the biological survival of Africans as a collective, as it has done for Europeans for the past five centuries.
The Liberal and Bourgeois Individualistic view of the primary function of education is that education should first and foremost guarantee students good jobs and lifestyle. Which, given the dynamics of the prevailing exploitative capitalist mode of production, is an illusion. While, as a Pan-Africanist, I don’t outright dismiss this view, I think that it is a secondary function of education. After all, what is the point of having a good job and lifestyle when your biological survival is not guaranteed, in that you lack Power and you are racially dominated and controlled by Whites? The so-called prestigious institution of higher learning to which we are “currently” fighting for access are nothing but centres of White Cultural Power. They are centres which produce and disseminate knowledge which advances the interest of Europeans who dominate and control Africans. These institutions are merely European universities in Africa and not African universities as some shallow charlatans would have us believe.
The above-mentioned point is connected with the next issue I want to discuss. And this issue is the distinction between transformation and decolonisation of Institutions of higher learning. To a great extent the transformation agenda is grounded, whether explicitly or not, in reformism and the democratisation paradigm which accentuates assimilationist inclusion. According to this agenda, if institutions of higher learning are “white spaces” there is a need for black lecturers to be employed and to teach more black students who will have more access to education when education is free. This, to a great extent, is a “numbers game”, which misses the important point, and this point is that the problem is not one of only phenotype (being black physically) but one of both phenotype and intellectual orientation(Eurocentric or Afrocentric).
After all, what is the point of including black lecturers who are nothing but what following Hountendju can be denominated “junior collaborators” or following Spivak can be designated as “native informants”? The above-mentioned type of black lecturers are nothing but what we can term following Malcolm X,”intellectual house-negroes”. These black lecturers identify more with their white masters and their interest than they do with Africans and their liberation from white domination and control. In crude terms, these are intellectual black mercenaries for White Supremacy. They have internalised the White Supremacist Symbolic or Semiological Order; which subscribes to “Manichean dualism” which, through discursive practices, reduces and equates blackness with inherent inferiority and whiteness with normative and innate superiority.
These black lecturers have been, as Amos Wilson would put it, “intimidated by Eurocentric historiography which bombards them with white images of achievement” and at the same time denigrates and degrades blackness. The transformation agenda is characterised by a form of “begging” White Power structures to include “civilised”(in the sense of having attained similar intellectual standards) blacks, thus affirm the mythology of inherent white superiority. This paradigm neglects the history of colonial conquest both mentally and materially in the form of land dispossession and loss of sovereignty. It accepts white colonial rule. And merely seeks to “join the party”, as the English would put it.
The decolonisation agenda is predicated on the project of extirpating colonial conquest both mentally and materially. In other words, this paradigm and agenda are premised on the historically grounded postulation that White Supremacy is a multifaceted project, and that land dispossession and loss of sovereignty, as accentuated by Mogobe Ramose, are just one and major fundamental problem. But both these agenda and paradigm accentuate the fact that White Supremacy is also an “intellectual warfare” which was declared by the colonizer against the history, culture and human dignity of the colonised. Eurocentric historiography forms part of the intellectual aspect of White Supremacy. In other words, White Supremacy is a complex global political system which was constructed through ideas and not merely through brute force and violence. Western philosophers such as Hume, Locke, Kant, Hegel and Marx, just to mention the “celebrated” ones, provided the necessary “intellectual raw material” that colonizers can draw from in order to erect political and economic systems of white domination and control. Great African scholars such as Charles Mills, Emanuel Eze, Tsenay Serequeberham and Jacob Carruthers have demonstrated the intimate epistemological correlation between Western philosophy and White Supremacy. White missionaries and Anthropologists, as Archie Mafeje demonstrated, did, also, play their intellectual role.
So what is the distinction between the transformation agenda and the decolonisation agenda? The decolonisation agenda accentuates what Cabral designates as a “return to the source”, in other words, following Molefi Asante, it accentuates the significance of “proper chronology “rather than an uncritical assimilation and inclusion of indigenous knowledge system, culture and language. A simple example which I want to provide following Asante is why teach for instance western philosophy and posit that Thales is the first philosopher, when we know that there were African philosophers such as Imhotep, Ptahhotep, Kagemni and Merikare thousands of years before Thales? Why regard Europe as the centre of philosophy when the Greeks, as George James and Martin Bernal have proven, learned philosophy at the feet of African Master teachers in Africa?
This is the reason why when you follow the decolonisation agenda you have to operate within the Afrocentric intellectual orientation. In other words, as a black lecturer your pedagogy has to be solidly grounded in African history, culture and language. While it is possible to pursue the transformation agenda and remain grounded in a Eurocentric intellectual tradition, it is a foolish contradiction, in terms, to pursue the decolonisation agenda and operate outside the Afrocentric intellectual orientation.
A simple example of the compatible pursuit of the transformation agenda within the Eurocentric intellectual tradition is: teaching that the first philosopher is Thales from Greece in Zulu or Pedi to African students. In other words, the inclusion and usage of African indigenous languages doesn’t automatically imply decolonisation, but can sometimes symbolise a facilitation of European indoctrination. Let us briefly analyse the issue of free access to education in institutions of higher learning in accordance with the decolonisation paradigm and agenda. Since our analysis is premised on the decolonial paradigm, and our main pedagogical objective is decolonising the African mind and the so-called African universities, we have to deal with chronology. Our “current” problem of free access to education is connected historically to colonial conquest which began in 1652, in Southern Africa.
The colonial conquest which took place in 1652 was characterised by both mental conquest and material conquest. Mental conquest commenced with the myth that Africans lack “rational faculty”, as Kant would put it, and therefore lack “ideas” and knowledge. Thus the least Africans could claim to possess was opinion (doxa) and not true knowledge (episteme) in the Platonic sense; only the coloniser had a monopoly on true knowledge. Informed by this “epistemic hubris”, the coloniser imposed his ‘true knowledge” on the Africans through the consent of the “converted” Africans and through violent suppression and exclusion of indigenous knowledge which was regarded as “non-existent” by the coloniser. Thus the mental conquest of the Africans which still continues even today, through White Supremacist institutions such as the so-called African universities. This “true knowledge” of the coloniser is what is called education in institutions of higher learning for which we are fighting to have free access.
The above-mentioned mental conquest is intimately connected to material conquest. Material conquest took the obvious form of land dispossession and the attendant loss of sovereignty. It is through material conquest that the coloniser obtains access to economic Power which he still holds in a form of ownership of mines and farms, which was reinforced through the Peace treaty of Vereeniging of 1902. The contemporary descendants of the initial coloniser are beneficiaries of colonial material conquest and the resultant economic Power. Their socio-economic position of privilege and wealth is to a great extent based on colonial material conquest; whose fruits they are still obstinately holding on to despite their foolish claim of “colour-blindness” which is impossible both epistemologically and phenomenologically.
The ownership and control of mines and farms and accumulation of wealth through brutal exploitation of black labour power is still taking place today. And this explains the socio-economic difference of status between Africans and white beneficiaries of colonial material conquest. Therefore there is a clear correlation between section 25 of the constitution(I consciously use the small letter “c” to dethrone this constitution from its subtle claim of conceptual superiority) which constitutionalises the coloniser’s right of conquest and lack of access to education, thus makes it infeasible for Africans to have the necessary resources to attain economic freedom and self-determination. [section 25 of the constitution is with regards to the constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996]
And this is the main reason why white people praise this constitution, as it ensured the preservation of white economic and cultural Power, domination and control of Africans. This constitution is a colonial legal document which aims at maintaining White domination and control of Africans. It is characterised by a typical liberal hypocrisy of abstract Universalist inclusiveness while materially excluding the majority of Africans. In other words, why a right to education and section 25 which makes it possible for whites to withhold resources necessary for the realisation of the right to education?
Of course I am aware of corruption and the mismanagement of funds which are rampant in the current governing bureaucracy, but this is not an excuse to exonerate white people who still have economic Power. It is rather an indication of cultural alienation (in the form of crass selfish individualism) on the part of the westernised black elite which practices bourgeois politics (the current corrupt European multiparty system) of self-seeking accumulation of materialistic possessions and conspicuous consumption which is what Chinweizu calls the Cargo-Cult mentality (the foolish neglect of domestic production and the shameless pursuit of commodities produced and exported from Europe i.e. white master’s home).
Thus, both these westernised black elite and their white slave masters are the enemy standing in the way of African liberation. They are the cause of the sophisticated form of slavery which we experiencing currently, whereby our condition may change but our position does not change as John Henrik Clarke posited. In other words, you can be a rich slave. What makes one a slave is not just poverty but the absence or lack of self-determination which is what Lembede, Sobukwe and Garvey were fighting for. The white master still has economic Power, and the westernised black elite are merely managers of the wealth of their white masters who, in return for this, get crumbs falling from the table of the white master. In other words, there was no state succession but government succession, which implicitly symbolises what Ali Mazrui called Slavery by consent as opposed to Slavery by coercion. Thus, the sacrifice of land ownership, mineral wealth and sovereignty, on the altar of occupying seats formerly reserved exclusively for their white masters.
And this liberal legal hypocrisy in line with neo-liberal commodification of education through the adoption of GEAR which ensures the preservation of white economic power at the global level through multinational corporations which “manage” the so-called new democratic dispensation. The adoption of GEAR symbolises the collaboration between what Fanon calls the African petit bourgeois and their white slave masters to oppress ordinary Africans (i.e. a class project between white supremacists and the westernised black elite which the 1996 constitution of South Africa is a clear legal example)
This is precisely the reason why Mogobe Ramose posits the existence of Tymocracy (rule of money) through “economic sovereigns” (multinational corporations) and not Democracy. Have you ever wondered why the South African Reserve bank is said to be autonomous by the very constitution (which is not autonomous and not indigenous) which is in line with neoliberalism, and thus insulated from popular consultation and participation?
We now have the brief history which should inform how we analyse our “current” situation of free access to education.
Whose education do we want free access to? The answer is simple, the coloniser’s “true knowledge”. In other words, we want free access to European indoctrination. The next question is who is this “all” who must have free access to education? Africans and Whites? Why include whites when they already have Cultural Power through education as their “true knowledge”? We know that poor whites still benefit effectively from this White Supremacist symbolic Order, hence some can say even if they are poor at least they are not kaffirs or Niggers.And this is why the proletarian alliance between blacks and whites is an illusion propagated by orthodox Marxism. And this is why Biko, in line with the radical black tradition was clear about non-collaboration with white liberals. Why include whites who already have economic Power though mines and farms (including universities) which exploit African parents (black workers) who, as a result, are incapable of paying fees?
In order to understand this Universalist and all-inclusive approach to free access to education. We have to identify the ideology which informs our “current” problem of free access to education. In my opinion, the ideological position which is used to deal with the “current” issue of free access to education is Liberal non-racialism. This Liberal non-racialism reached its historic spectacular apex with the adoption of the so-called “Freedom Charter”. The intention of this “Freedom Charter” was clear in its opening statement, which posited that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it”.
Again who is this “all” who live in South Africa? Africans, Whites, coloniser, colonised, conqueror and conquered? What is this South Africa the “Freedom Charter” is referring to anyway? The answer is simple, South Africa is a White Supremacist name which was invented by the coloniser through the Union Act which inaugurated the so-called Union of South Africa on the basis of territorial consolidation of the so-called Boer republics and British colonies. And this symbolised the reconfiguration and re-inscription of White Power which began in 1652 with colonial conquest.
The point I am trying to make is that a Liberal non-racial approach to free access to education has nothing to do with Black Power, if anything it promotes the participation of Africans in their economic domination and control by whites who own the multinational corporations which are nothing but neoliberal plantations created to exploit and racially dominate black labour power (which results in cultural alienation) to advance the economic interests of white slave masters. In other words, it is possible to have free access to education for “all” under White economic domination and control. The so-called private sector, which consists mainly of white multinational corporations(i.e. plantations), can monitor the strength of the “protest”, and just when it affects the “economy”, in other words when it threatens white economic interests, decide to “invests” in education for African skilled labour power and the creation of black purchasing-power to consume European mass-produced commodities.
A large number of the so-called “black middle class”, because of their white master’s vocational training, become black reactionaries and conservatives who ignore the structural, systemic and systematic nature of white supremacy. This leads to the “excluded” and poverty-stricken Africans into personalising and ontologising their lack of “success” by positing that the system is fine if only they could work hard enough. What the Africans fail to realise is that the so-called “black middle class” was created as a necessary economic concession to preserve white economic domination and control.
In other words, if Africans are revolting against a system which is based on their cheap labour power, why not pay them better salaries, give them better vocational training (not education), so as to increase their purchasing power on European mass-produced commodities? After all, they don’t want to produce what they consume in order to achieve economic autonomy. After all, they are so comfortable with their position of racial oppression and exploitation, that they are blind to the power behind the capital which the system gives them and they return to the system through consuming European commodities. This strategy will not dismantle White Power, if anything it will strengthen white economic domination and control as Ani Marimba would put it.
Thus far I have identified a problem. What kind of solution do I have to proffer? A Decolonial approach to both access to education and the content of education which is grounded in the Afrocentric intellectual orientation which is solidly premised on African culture, psychology, values and history for the purposes of the attainment of Black Power. Only Africans must get free access to African education and vocational training which must be solid as the fundament of the curriculum and then voluntarily choose to incorporate other foreign knowledge systems. If you teach philosophy, African philosophy must be the basic subject in all levels of study, and other philosophies can be “added’ on of African philosophy. African students must master African classics and then move on to study foreign epistemological traditions which are available to advance their interest as Africans. The main objective of this African education and vocational training should be to industrialise Africa in order to attain economic autonomy and Power as well as military Power for the collective protection and survival of Africans.
Like I said, in beginning, the primary function of education is the Power to determine the African destiny and to ensure the biological survival of Africans which has been in question for many centuries – Chancellor Williams in the Destruction of Black Civilization explains it very well. The so-called African universities provide vocational training and mis-education, as explained by Carter G Woodson, for Africans which is in line with the prevailing white man’s capitalistic mode of production which serves the economic interest of white Power. African education must teach African students that they once held Power and they lost it, the aim is not only to celebrate black heroes as Sobukwe’s Pan-Africanism did, but to study African history politically, that is to pose the question why and how did we lose Power and how can we gain it? In other words, to teach African students that they are ultimate existential goal is not to serve the white man in their multinational corporations (plantations).
To have an African physicist who works for a white slave master who owns a plantation which deals with nuclear power, who then creates an atomic bomb which is used to exterminate black life is a pathetic and immoral contradiction which is a reflection of Eurocentric vocational training. As Amos Wilson has postulated, Africans have to pose the question why is that there are many qualified black economists but Africans are still poor?
John Henrik Clarke posited that “you cannot oppress a historically conscious people and that powerful people (whites) never teach powerless people(Africans) to take power away from them”. I want to conclude a discussion which should go on forever by positing that since education is about Power, our situation as Africans of lack of Power, despite access to higher institutions of learning is emblematic of the fact that the restoration of land ownership and mineral wealth and sovereignty complemented of necessity by an Afrocentric education and vocational training is a recipe for Black Power and survival of Africans.
By Masilo Lepuru