Afrocentric Education

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Afrocentricity is the interpretation and/or reinterpretation of reality from an African perspective. Thus Afrocentric education is the process through which African culture and the knowledge and skills needed to maintain and perpetuate it are developed and advanced in present generations and transmitted to future generations.

Afrocentricity as Foundational

Afrocentric education is grounded in and proceeds from the Afrocentric worldview, which includes beliefs regarding the fundamental questions on the existence and organization of the universe and socieites. These questions are central to education. J. A. Sofola, in African Culture and The African Personality, advanced several ideas about the optimum attributes of formal and informal Afrocentric education, including the following:
  1. the family as the epicenter of African social existence, giving the individual family member his or her identity and frame of reference
  2. a support system of love, care, responsibility, and justice for each individual from the rest of his or her family and the community at large
  3. wholesome human relations providing each individual a stake in the community and balancing the individual's development with the development of the community
  4. community land tenure and ownership, providing everyone access to land
  5. the peaceful coexistence of different peoples through the philosophy of live and let live
  6. respect for elders and the old as a common feature of governance
  7. generosity and hospitality toward the “stranger,” the “visitor,” the “foreigner”
  8. an optimistic disposition to life's mission
It can be said that restoration of the Afrocentric worldview exists as a project because African culture has been the target of systematic acts of destruction by proponents of Western European cultural imperialism and white nationalist supremacy. It must be added that national consciousness arises out of a people's culture.

Afrocentric Personal Transformation and Worldview Restoration

Afrocentric education proactively addresses the imposition of cultural alienation and the transformation processes associated with restoring African people to the center of their own story by means of the Afrocentric worldview. While the Afrocentric worldview has existed since antiquity, Afrocentrism has not. Afrocentrism is a concept that was constructed to enable Africans to use the strengths of enduring cultural unity as weapons for liberation and tools for building a new world order. The need for such a concept was created by African experiences with invasion, conquest, enslavement, colonization, and neocolonization. Concomitant with these acts of aggression and violence against African people, there have been systematic efforts to destroy African culture through the imposition of European culture on Africans everywhere. The three examples below illustrate how the methodology of Afrocentric worldview restoration as a process of personal transformation has been treated by contemporary scholars.
Afrocentricity is a transforming agent for the restoration of the Afrocentric worldview. The process by which this transformation is to be effected is guided by Afrology, a term coined by Asante to refer to a comprehensive Afrocentric philosophical statement with attendant possibilities for a new logic, science, and rhetoric. It is precisely this possibility of individual transformation that makes an Afrocentric collective consciousness viable.
The ideological function of Eurocentric culture can be understood through the systematic analysis of Western culture's deep structure and the uses of its logic. This essentially means learning how to demystify the universalistic claims of Western cultural imperialism by treating them as manifestations of ideology. When Western culture is made visible in this way, it is possible for Africans to transcend the Europeanization of thought and redefine their thinking in Africancentered terms. Deconstruction and reconstruction must thus occur in tandem. Given the extent of Western encroachment on African understandings, the employment of constructionist approaches is necessarily anteceded by deconstruction and reconstruction—a relationship between the three approaches that Daudi Azibo deems ideal in his work on African Psychology.

Afrocentric Education and the African Worldview

What sets Afrocentricity apart from other theories is its intrinsic embodiment of an ongoing process of recovery and restoration of the African worldview as a means of locating and centering present conceptions of reality and analysis of phenomena within the African worldview continuum. Afrocentric education, as a corollary of Afrocentricity, must necessarily share these qualities.
Schools are among the institutions through which the process of cultural assault upon Africans has been facilitated. African students are taught to think in nonAfrican ways using Western orientations to knowledge as the foundation for learning. Afrocentric education is therefore part of the same process of cultural restoration and promulgation that is inherent to Afrocentricity. Thus, when it is perceived as a part of the body of human sciences, some of the major assumptions underlying Afrocentric education are as follows:
  • it acknowledges African spirituality as an essential aspect of Africans' uniqueness as a people and makes education an instrument of Africans' liberation
  • it prepares Africans for self-reliance, nation maintenance, and nation management in every regard
  • it provides support for re-Africanization, to counter the cultural alienation imposed through conquest, colonization, and enslavement
  • it aims to build commitment and competence in present and future generations to support the struggle for liberation and nationhood
  • it facilitates participating in the affairs of nations and defining (or redefining) reality on Africans' own terms, in their own time, and in their own interests
  • it emphasizes the fundamental relationship between the strength of African families and the strength of African nationhood
  • it ensures that the historic role and function of the customs, traditions, rituals and ceremonies— which have protected and preserved Africans' culture, facilitated their spiritual expression, ensured harmony in their social relations, prepared their people to meet their responsibilities as adult members of the culture, and sustained the continuity of African life over successive generations—are understood and made relevant to the challenges that confront Africans now
  • it emphasizes that African identity is embedded in the continuity of African cultural history and that African cultural history represents a distinct reality continually evolving from the experiences of all African people wherever they are and have been on the planet across time and generations
  • it builds commitment to the struggle for liberation and to the nation-building process through the exercise of each individual's thought processes
  • it embraces the traditional wisdom that “children are the reward of life” and is an expression of Africans' unconditional love for children, thus it uses educational methods that best serve African children by reflecting the best current understandings of how they develop and learn biologically, spiritually, and culturally
Afrocentric education, then, is, at one and the same time, complex and straightforward. It facilitates preparation for African life; self-determination; a link between spirituality, liberation, and nation building; a bond connecting family and nation; and intergenerational transmission of culture. Moreover, Afrocentric education facilitates recognition of the continuity of African cultural history and commitments to personal transformation.

Afrocentric Schools

Afrocentric education is clearly dependent upon human perception and interpretation. Thus education can be Afrocentric only to the extent that the persons responsible for the curriculum and instruction in schools consistently apply Afrocentric interpretative frameworks and methodologies to facilitate and evaluate teaching and learning. These persons must be consciously engaged in Afrocentric personal transformation themselves. It follows then that a curriculum or any other artifact of schooling cannot be Afrocentric independent of the human capacity to perceive and interpret it in an Afrocentric manner.
The black power movement in the United States from the mid-1960s through the early 1970s produced perhaps 50 to 75 independent schools in African communities across the country. Although independent schools controlled and operated by Africans had existed in the United States since the 1790s, the schools that came out of late 20th-century progressive politics were radically different from the other schools. This difference was the result of the movement that produced them having learned critical lessons about the politics of education and the role of schools in imposing the ideology and worldview of the politically dominant Eurocentric culture in the United States on African people. The planners and organizers of these schools referred to them as “Independent Black Institutions” and laid out clear objectives for them.
The Council of Independent Black Institutions, founded in 1972, is an umbrella organization of independent African-centered schools that embody a commitment to reclaiming the African worldview and restoring sovereignty for African people. From the mid-1990s into the early 21st century, the academic successes of the cultural focus of the African-centered independent schools have led to attempts by some public, private, and charter schools, particularly in urban areas, to emulate their model. These efforts have focused on the cultural symbolism and rituals developed by the independent African-centered schools. Their reliance on public funds and the differing ideological commitments of these schools, however, do not lend themselves to the emphases on the self-reliant, institution-building strategies and cultural nationalist goals that characterize independent African-centered schools of the type represented by the Council of Independent Black Institutions.
  • Afrocentricity
  • Afrocentric education
  • African culture
  • independent schools
  • African people
  • cultural imperialism
  • Africans in the United States

References

Author(s)

Further Reading

  • Akoto, K. A. (1992). Nationbuilding: Theory and Practice in Afrikan-centered Education. Washington, DC: Pan-African World Institute. This is a key work by one of the major thinkers in the field, especially with regard to the need for African-controlled schools for the proper education of African Americans.
  • Ani, Marimba. (1994). Yurugu: An African-centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press. This is a solidly developed analysis of what is wrong with the Eurocentric conception of knowledge.
  • Asante, Molefi Kete. (1994). The Afrocentric Project in Education. In M. J. Shujaa (Ed.), Too Much Schooling, Too Little Education: A Paradox of Black Life In White Societies(pp. 395–398). Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press. This book discusses some of the most important assumptions behind the Afrocentric movement in education.
  • Shujaa, Mwalimu J. Afrocentric Transformation and Parental Choice in African American Independent Schools. The Journal of Negro Education (2) 148–159 (1992). This essay analyzes some common motivations and thoughts of African American parents about schooling issues. dx.doi.org.
  • Sofola, J. A. (1973). African Culture and the African Personality. Ibadan, Nigeria: Oyo Books. This book provides a useful analysis of common and basic African cultural features.