by Alagi Yoro Jallow
Cramming, memorizing and regurgitation for exams IS NOT ACADEMIC. Let me repeat cramming, memorizing and regurgitation for exams IS NOT ACADEMIC. It is oppression. It comes from a government that steals from its people and has a rigid, stagnant economy that doesn’t have enough room for its citizens to innovate and create. That is not academic. That is called OPPRESSION.
June 13, 2010 BBC News Africa reported that “new research by the UK’s University of Loughborough says universities in Zambia, Malawi and Botswana lay too much emphasis on learning by heart. The researchers say African students need to be taught to think more critically and creatively, or there could be trouble for future generations”. Creativity and independent and critical thinking skilling should start from Kindergarten. That’s how the education systems in the West including Japan are structured – It’s too late if you want to start at University Level?
Similarly, let me say this at the risk of sounding snobbish. Many Gambian adjunct lecturers and some tenured -track faculty are not academics. They are just highly schooled. If a lecturer does not develop critical thinking and reflection, ethics and active citizenship or demonstrate an ability to transform original knowledge and create new knowledge, and to transcend the world of the ‘mundane’ to the world of the ‘unthinkable,’” then they are not academic. They are just highly certified.
Erudite scholar Chris Newfield say this, and I’ll repeat it here. Good education is like vaccination. For it to be useful, most of the population must receive it. If only a few do, even the few who get vaccinated are not safe from catching the disease when everybody else has it.
But by now, we know that the West will never attribute anything economic and political to Africans. They keep telling us that everything we do is cultural and peculiar in our niggerly way. Even some African academics have bought that racist crap and at conferences they will give culturalist explanations to economic, political, philosophical and educational problems. The next struggle is to make economic questions, educational questions, health questions, political questions, and so forth. The truth is, academic and education is power.
Associate Professor Laura Perry defines academic curriculum as follows: “Academic curriculum provides a solid foundation for social, economic and physical well-being and develops critical reflection, ethics and active citizenship. Moreover, as a form of abstract knowledge, academic curriculum develops students’ ability to transform and create new knowledge, and to transcend the world of the ‘mundane’ to the world of the ‘unthinkable.’”
In countries of the Anglo-Saxon capitalist tradition (US, UK and its former settler colonies like the Gambia), the corporate and ruling class are fighting hard against access of ordinary working class and poor children to academic education. In those countries, the people in the higher classes don’t mind academic curriculum for themselves and their children. As Perry says of Australia, “students from higher socio-economic backgrounds and students who attend non-government (private) schools are more likely to study academic curriculum compared to other students.
Look at the Gambia’s top political families. Which one of them sends their kids for technical training, or even STEM? Which of the top politicians in our Anglo-Saxon hell are agricultural engineer, sanitary engineers or technicians?
And it is not because academic curriculum has no skills. If anything, people with a good academic curriculum take a shorter time to gain skills in on-the-job training than those who don’t have an academic background. So, if the Gambia really wanted to, we would provide a good academic education in school, expand our economy and structure corporate environment such that companies give hands-on training and apprenticeship to people leaving high schools and universities. It would cost the economy and even companies less.
But the poison of Anglo-Saxon capitalism has made the people who own more than the rest of us demonically hate academic curriculum, academic freedom, because academic curriculum with academic freedom challenges power. Academic education and empowerment are what makes workers say they are tired of being exploited and that their employers can afford to pay better. Academic education is what empowers citizens call politicians “liars” to their faces. Surely, it should not surprise any Gambian that the ruling class doesn’t want Gambians to have an academic curriculum and academic freedom. So, when politicians are telling you that kids are unemployed because their learning is not too academic, they are lying. Please, they are lying. The Gambia need to reform its academic and education curriculum.
Let me say that again: politicians and corporates are lying. We need to keep saying it because Gambians take what politicians and corporates say as the gospel truth, simply because for many of them, money is God. That is the evil in our souls that we must confront. For as long as we love money the way we do, for as long as we count property more important than fellow human beings, we will continue accepting these lies about quality education.