Professor of History, University of Texas at Austin, Prof. Toyin Falola has called for decolonization of African higher education through the proliferation of the Afrocentric concepts and research infusion of cultural imperatives into educational settings, and African pedagogy.
Prof Falola stated this while delivering the 54th convocation lecture of the University of Lagos entitled: Decolonising African Higher Education for Transformational Development held on Monday.
According to him, this is vital because one of the important forces for driving societal transformation is the decolonization of African higher education.
He added that the belated inception of higher education in Africa has engendered a consequential reliance on former colonial powers for manpower and economic sustenance in the postcolonial era.
“This reliance is more prominent in scientific and technological domains, where expertise is frequently sourced from Western nations.
“Regrettably, the universities designed to cultivate such were relegated to a lower priority on the agenda of the European colonialists. Thus, the colonial lineage of higher education in Africa steered these institutions towards a dependence on Western academic norms and practices, both in curricular and administrative frameworks.”
Prof. Falola added that despite the present autonomy of African universities following independence, they predominantly uphold the academic systems and structures bequeath by the colonialists, adhering closely to Western academic standards.
“This is exacerbated by the fact that academics who leave African countries to pursue higher education in former colonial countries are subjected to a compulsory one year postgraduate diploma to assimilate them into the foreign educational system.
Falola explained further that the premise for such ridiculous action is the relegation of Africa’s educational system as second fiddle to theirs, an educational system they structured in synchrony with their interests.
Giving examples, Prof Falola said over the years, African scholars have made substantial contributions to the discourse on politics, offering informative perspectives that are culturally inclusive.
“Sadly, however, the field of political studies within the African higher education system tends to heavily favour the political theories of Western scholars. This inclination often sidelines the significance of tailoring political thought to the African context and terrain.
Giving these considerations, Prof Falola advised that the best teaching method for African higher institution would ideally be a balanced and inclusive approach.
He said this approach would involve the incorporation of both Western and indigenous knowledge systems, providing students with a comprehensive education that is deeply rooted in her own cultural and historical context while also drawing from the wealth of global knowledge.
“It would foster critical thinking and adaptability, enabling students to engage with a wide array of ideas and concepts, both within and outside of their cultural framework,” he explained..
Stating however that the decolonization of African higher education is an endeavour not devoid of challenges, Prof Falola said ongoing discussions centre on the decolonization of African higher education for transformational development, cannot be achieved by just mere conceptualization.
He said practical steps and approach must be set down for the implementation thereof and this he recommended which include expansion of the General courses and programmes on cultural properties; promotion of African languages as Academic courses; creation of African vocabulary development and enlightenment bank.
Others according to him is the proliferation of African concepts and scholarship; socio-cultural initiatives, combined honours in African culture, science and economies; proposal for the creation of a centre of creative economies, among others.
The Vice Chancellor of UNILAG, Prof. Folasade Ogunsola in her address said that the university has recognized its role is to develop minds so that people can be the best version of themselves with the capacity to develop the nation and be fit for purpose of the 4th industrial revolution.
She added that even with the role by universities like UNILAG, there is clearly still lack of confidence in who we are.
“There is already a change, we are beginning to ask the relevant questions and recognize that if we are to fully develop and be unique not copycats, we must embrace who we are so we can make the right choices on what parts of our cultures we will adopt.
“We must rediscover our purpose, trace our heritage, re-orientate our minds and develop new policies that embrace our peculiarities and uniqueness,” she stated