Posted on

Emancipation 2 Education, and education


It is a well-known refrain that “Education is the surest route out of poverty”. Generally, there is no truth in that statement. Another saying, that “riches and wealth (often) come as a result of education”, is one which our experience will also cause us to question. Yes, there is education and there is education. When His Excellency Bob Marley reissued the call to “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery”, he wasn’t proclaiming that education – schooling – leads to emancipation.{{more}} In fact, our still colonial type education is part of what keeps us enslaved. “None but ourselves” can envision, then design and negotiate the pathway for our minds, hands, hearts and instruments to reach for freedom and fulfillment. The truth is, we have not yet come together to admit our enslavement, recognize the poverty among us, and place mental (and material/spiritual) emancipation on our agenda in education. Our education today still has us locked down as a people in a global jail, while the fantasy of individual emancipation persists.

Douglas Hall (late) Jamaican historian, points us to the instruction to Leeward Islands Governor Fitzroy for him to ask the clergy and others to …devise the best methods of combining industrial training with the other objects of education … The moral well-being of the Negroes … will depend upon their being trained to the exercise of industry in the arts and labours which are their natural portion. (As black toilers).

This was in 1845, eleven years after slave emancipation. For the colonial rulers, education had as its aim to produce a capable working class, of good behavior and keeping to its place in the community. Education was for production and maintaining social order.

Norma Keizer, more than 40 years ago in “Flambeau”, showed how the church in SVG took up the task of schooling the black masses (and churching and classing them). That was not mental emancipation nor the abolition of poverty. It took 50 to 70 years for a second(ary) level of education to begin in our region, and a third/tertiary education came on-stream in secular studies, 100 years after emancipation, as a service to the needs of the colonial political economy and its transitions. These developments in education were not emancipatory. They were accomodationist.

Critical educators like the late Brazilian, Freire, tell us that it takes a special kind of education to liberate people – not just any old education. Paolo Freire calls for a “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, a methodology in education that begins with the concrete living conditions and epistemology of the vulnerable communities. A “none but ourselves” principle must be built into how we propose change and fulfillment through education.

Emancipation and emancipation

Walter Rodney (1942 – 1980) has written that education is a “violent phenomenon in many ways”, when he wrote about Frantz Fanon, an African liberation comrade from Martinique. For Rodney, the book “Black Skins White Masks” ‘reveals Fanon’s rebellion against the processes of his own formation’. One of my own comrades had this to say about her own education:

I was educated in ignorance
But re educated by experience
(E. Horne 1949-98)

Rodney considered that “Race” was a false mental product that our education has been given to inferiorise and poison our minds with. He claims therefore, that we who have been formally educated could only have been ‘educated in a racist way’. From that position Rodney, therefore, challenges the anti- racist teachings of Negritude and much of Afrocentrism as a product of racial inferiority. They stand for ‘creating a new set of myths about black people’ to replace the old white set.

Kathleen Drayton’s 1990 essay “Rodney on Education” which I have been citing, suggests that even black mental emancipation could be tainted with colonial contradictions. And Drayton comments that “Our education system has not yet transcended the problem of the colonial construction of knowledge”.

Our region and our own country have brought many deeply educated persons to the world. In their own professional fields, men like Walcott and W.A Lewis have had barriers and constraints on what they could achieve. More potently, our educated stars have not had a structural impact on our economic or mental emancipation.

Education revolution is just an anaemic idiom when, as Rodney put it, “revolutionary adjustments” are not “made for the simultaneous transformation of the alienated society and the alienated individual” mind games are a strategy that colonial rule played in order to get at us successfully. Emancipation is not a game, however. If colonial education really has been and is a violent phenomenon, then post colonial education calls for an end to word games and the splitting and denaturing of our mental intellectual nationhood.

By the way, in the year 2005, the government of SVG, through Prime Minister Gonsalves, announced that annual national scholarships to university would be named after several Caribbean heroic persons. Could somebody remind the Minister of Education and the Prime Minister kindly to honour that pledge? Let us take education thinking to another level.


Last week’s Quiz:

The answers to the Questions were:

1. Nellie lbo
2. Rev. Matthew Lamb

There were no winners.

This week’s Quiz:

Question: Name the Vincentian educator – artist who wrote “People who all time jump up jump up find only they foot develop”

Question: Name the former slave woman who wrote: “All slaves want to be free – to be free is very sweet”.