Recently, I saw a viral video by American spoken word artist, poet, rapper and filmmaker, Prince Ea. In the video, Prince Ea called out the American School System for killing creativity in children among many issues. This brought a thought to mind, “If the American school system (which is light years ahead of that of Africa) is faulty, then the African school system is a disaster.” I speak from a personal point of view because I have experienced both systems. African school system has a long way to go in terms helping develop problem-solving future leaders. The African school system has destroyed many lives and futures. It stunts the progress of our future leaders with the use of archaic methods of teaching etc. Here are just a few of the problems that should be addressed when it comes to our school system.
SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS
The African school system abandons students simply because they are abled differently. Unlike the United States, there are no rules in place to diagnose and help students with learning disabilities. The system is such that, you can either keep up with your peers or you’re left behind. A lot of students with dyslexia, ADD, and Language Processing Disorder (just to mention a few) are considered “dumb” because no one bothers to find out why it is difficult for them to excel in class.
No, I don’t mean completing your undergraduate studies. Very few people make it as far as completing college and even fewer go ahead to pursue Ph.D.’s or even master’s degrees. The fault does not lie with the student but the African society. When I started high school back in Africa, the ideal goal was to complete college and find a job after school. This “dream” might not seem like much but for the majority of African students, this was the pinnacle of life.
FINANCIAL AID (SCHOOL LOANS)
In some parts of Africa, education is free up until high school,beyond that, you have to pay tuition out-of-pocket. Without financial aids or school loans (like in the United States) many students are forced to drop out and find mediocre jobs. If you want the best of education, you have to pay enormous tuitions, which most parents are unwilling and unable to do. Growing up in Africa, I remember being sent home on many occasions because of school fees. A lot of my African brothers and sisters can relate. Needless to say, a lot of lives could have been saved if there were loans available to help students in financial need.
INNOVATION AND CREATIVE THINKING
The African school system cannot boast of many research opportunities for students. Research allows for creative thinking and encourages innovation among students. In Africa, we discourage from questioning what we learn in school. Students are considered “rebellious” when they start to question the ideas and teachings of professor and more likely they never excel in their respective classes. I believe this sort of stigma starts from the home. The rule in most African homes is, “Children should be seen but not heard.” This rule is also enforced in the classroom. We just read textbooks and pamphlets by lectures and regurgitate the information like it was the Ten Commandments.
EXPOSURE AND FLEXIBILITY
“In order to think outside the box, one must first see outside the box.” Very few of us get the chance to travel outside the country to see and experience education from a different angle. But within the various African countries, there are certain schools that adopt foreign systems of education, which have proven fruitful. An example is Ashesi University in Ghana. They encourage research and creative thinking among students. This is how you produce leaders that think for themselves unlike the tradition African school system that trains you just enough to work for a company.
LACK OF ROLE MODELS
“To think outside the box, you must see outside the box.”
Many of us come from homes where education a privilege and not a necessity. For instance, my parents never went past high school (education wise) so going to college was good enough. But imagine if my parents were medical doctors or Ph.D. holders, the level of expectation would have been different. Teachers and parents among others can still be role models without having to climb great heights. It all balls down to the kind of limits they place on their children. To be ideal role models, they must teach us that the only limits are the once that we set for ourselves.
I saved the best for last. I believe the reason most African countries experience stagnant growth in all aspects is narrow-mindedness. Interesting enough, most of the supporters of the current African school system are people who underwent this type of education 40 to 50 years ago. We can also see examples of this kind of narrow-mindedness all over Africa, people are stigmatized because of their sexual orientations to religion. In some African countries, people are persecuted and or killed for being gay or for being Buddhists.
Africa, as a whole, has a long way to go in terms of development but I believe the best way to start change is with the next generation. By improving our school systems, we change how the next generation will view and think of the world. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result.” We tried the same thing for decades with almost no success, it’s time we changed something.
Together, let’s make Africa great again.