‘Potted Plants in Greenhouses’: A Critical Reflection on the Resilience of Colonial Education in Africa
This paper draws on Okot p’Bitek’s Song of Lawino and other critical voices to argue that education in Africa is victim of a resilient colonial and colonizing epistemology, which takes the form of science as ideology and hegemony. Postcolonial African elite justify the resilience of this epistemology and the education it inspires with rhetoric on the need to be competitive internationally. The outcome is often a devaluation of African creativity, agency and value systems, and an internalized sense of inadequacy. Education has become a compulsion for Africans to ‘lighten their darkness’ both physically and metaphorically in the interest of and for the gratification of colonizing and hegemonic others. The paper calls for paying more attention to popular systems of knowledge, in which reality is larger than logic. It calls for listening to ordinary men and women who, like p’Bitek’s Lawino, are challenging the prescriptive gaze and grip of emasculated elite.