Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

African Development Problems need 18th Century Answers (Part 2)

By Mrs J. Maud Kordylas

As a follow-up to her three-part series entitled "Subjugated People Cannot Evolve a Constitution", recently published in this magazine, the writer presents this paper with suggested answers to the problems raised in the article. (see part 1)
Development of a people is done through an educational system. The nature and quality of any education given to the children of a nation is what is reflected later in the socio-economic structure of that society. To build a worthwhile future for the majority of the people, therefore, all the children of today must be reached with the type of skills and know-how we intend to see applied in the society. For what we consider as basic in education cannot be separated from the sort of society we dream of having.

In the case of Ghana for example, when the colonial rulers before independence instituted an educational system, they aimed at training clerks, book-keepers and administrators to man their trade, missions and administrative set up. They brought in missionaries to turn us into christians and to train religious leaders. The missionaries set up schools and brought in teachers to take care of both the religious development and psychological brain-washing of the people to get them to accept the best of English values and attitudes. Their aim was achieved and the Gold Coast was endowed with first class administrators, christians and psychologically brain-washed set of anglicized black elite.

After independence, their investment paid off, the brain-washing served its purpose. We set our national goal to aim at being like our colonial masters. We, therefore, set out to educate our children to hate our heritage, yearn for western ideals and western culture and to aim at getting to Europe and America as desirable achievements for ourselves and for our children. We have now managed to create mini Londons or modern bubble worlds in our cities.

The people who live there eat imported corn flakes and bread made from imported wheat for breakfast. They yearn for corned beef, mackerel and sardines and drink 'Black Label', 'Johnny Walker' whiskies for cocktails. Meanwhile our environment remains stagnant and undeveloped, while we take charter flights to London to shop for the latest fashions, or buy western goods for kalabule in our markets. We then turn around to take loans from the World Bank and from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to pay for the imported goods we consume. All this just to satisfy values and attitudes we have acquired through our neo-colonial educational system.

Education For A Purpose

Somehow, we have not really concerned ourselves with the basis, the nature and the quality of education we give to our children: the future citizens of our nation. The educational system we have adopted as is now obvious, does not make it possible for the potentials for the children to be realized. The children are not introduced systematically to what we have in our environment and are not taught what they can do with them to produce what they want for themselves.

The system does not capitalize on the natural desire in children to do interesting things for themselves; think through problems generated from their communities or their environment; experiment with solutions and come up with plausible answers for themselves. A school must be able to enter into the lives of the children, but somehow, our system does not do so. It does not stimulate the enquiring minds and curiosity of the children to want to know more about their culture, their natural resources and their heritage.

The system rather turns their minds on things foreign, which we as adults, place so much value on in our society. It is no wonder then that we have the type of society idolizes imported goods and yearns for western culture.

At present we are not even able to sustain and maintain standards in the educational system we have adopted. Most of the public schools have deteriorated both physically and academically. Maybe such a deterioration is a blessing in disguise like everything else which is crumbling around us. Maybe this is meant to jolt us into taking another look at what we have around us and decide to use them as teaching materials.

But, instead, in response to the degeneration in the public schools, private preparatory schools have sprung up. The small affluent minority in the society send their children to such schools. Even members of government who have the power to enact policies to do something about the public schools do not do anything, instead they also send their children to preparatory schools. And then to add insult to injury, they are now sending children to Cuba to be brain-washed and confused, and create a problem for the society in the future.

From the private preparatory schools, the affluent children get the opportunity to continue their education either at our three universities or abroad. From then on their status in our society is assured, and we thus continue to perpetuate our pseudo-elitist development programme. countries. Those trained abroad who fail to come back home are better utilized in an environment where better facilities and relevant infrastructure exist to make better use of their training and their talents.

Meanwhile, the majority of the children who attend the public schools come out being able to poorly read, write and add 2+2. Skills they acquire are hardly sufficient to enable them to obtain a decent living anywhere, or be to productive on their own. Compared with their illiterate relations and brethren, they feel too educated to remain in the rural areas, so they flock to the cities in search of white-collar jobs which are not there

The system rather turns their minds on things foreign, which we as adults, place so much value in our society. It is no wonder then that we have the type of society we've got today that idolises imported goods and yearns for western culture

Our society has thus created a system which develops the youth into two groups: a small minority group of highly educated young people who acquire sophisticated skills which the society cannot fully utilize, because it does not have the requisite infrastructure and the corresponding intermediate supporting skills and services needed to make effective use of them.

The second group comprises a large majority of semi-educated youth who are either unemployable, unemployed, underemployed or unhappily employed. A massive waste of a nation's most valuable resource manpower very central core of development! the

Appropriate Technology Movement

Somehow, the western developed nations are concerned about the lack of genuine socio-economic development in the emerging African states. If not from a moral point of view, they are concerned from purely political and economic points of view. They see and regard African nations as lucrative markets for their manufactured goods, equipment and machines. For African nations, therefore, to fail to develop economically, poses some economic problems to them, especially, when the African nations are unable to pay for goods sold to them.

For this reason, western institutions and development agencies are looking for ways and means to help stimulate productivity and genuine economic development in the independent African One such effort is the Appropriate Technology Group which was set up after Schumacher put forward his theory on development, and proposed the idea of development of third world countries through intermediate technology.

The group collects and collates relevant information on techniques and technologies suitable for use in setting up productive ventures in rural areas of third world countries. Most of the information produced is aimed at extension workers and project leaders who are expected to work in the field with rural people on development projects.

Appropriate Technology Projects For Rural Development

Most African governments have not made effective use of the available knowledge and information produced under the Appropriate Technology movement, because their countries lack properly instituted extension service network, and do not have the large numbers of extension workers and facilities required by the programme for its effective implementation to make an impact on their economy.

Besides, pushing such development skills through the majority of rural people, who are mostly illiterate and do not have the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic is very difficult and very slow, a rather slow route to take for economic development, which developing countries are not ready to consider let alone accept. Although most of the techniques involved in the projects are simple, their execution requires knowledge of certain basic skills which still seem rather sophisticated at the level of an illiterate peasant.

And then, where rural people get involved in such projects, they also have to commit their time and their resources to the project; do the work and take risks which they cannot afford to take. The projects are also undertaken in small isolated pockets which do not spread as fast as needed to effect a change.

For these reasons, most African governments have not paid much attention to the Appropriate Technology movement. They have left the efforts and dissemination of such skills and the projects undertaken to international aid agencies who are looking for ways to help third world countries. These agencies don't get much backing from African governments.

Appropriate Technology Projects For Schools

African states, however, continue to invest large sums of money into educational systems which do not produce expected gains in productivity, rather they yield large numbers of semi-educated youth who are not productive. African governments could start looking at Appropriate Technology in a different light. Introduction of appropriate technology projects into schools and at all levels of education, would enable children to acquire certain useful practical skills, which they can handle because the skills are simple.

They would use materials available in their immediate environment and the children would have useful things to do. They would be occupied and involved in their communities and would gain valuable experiences; learn about materials they have around them and learn to use them effectively; while they get stimulated into creative activities, which would benefit their local communities and themselves.

Passing appropriate technology skills through school children will be far more effective, because children are already placed in a situation of learning where they are already taught the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic; skills which their participation in projects will help enforce and make more meaningful and more relevant. There would be no risk taking as would otherwise accompany a peasant's acceptance to participate in a project, because the children would carry out the projects as learning experiences and as part of their school programme.

The need for extension services and extension workers would be eliminated since the projects would be carried out under the supervision of their regular teachers. Graduate students within the national service scheme, whose services, as of now, are not fully realized may be effectively used within such a programme, and could the few SO agricultural officers. Where particular skills are needed, the services of the numerous artisans who work in our communities: carpenters, fitters, metal workers, brick layers, blacksmiths, welders, etc. may also be employed to teach the skills, while they work with the children on a project.

When more difficult problems are encountered, these can be sent to our universities and to the scientific research institutions to find solutions for them. The findings are then relayed back to the schools. The research institutions and the institutions of higher learning can also act as generators of further projects to provide continuity and growth to the programme. Products that come cut of the projects can be sold to generate funds for the programme.

Appropriate Technology As Basis For Development

Schools are scattered all over the country and are also located in communities, successful implementation of appropriate technology project schemes in the educational system, would act as focal points for technological development across the length and breath of the country. Communities can make use of such development points and channel local problems for consideration and solution.

Schools can use such projects as revenue generating ventures, which will serve to provide funds for the maintenance and expansion of the programme at the community level. Children educated within such a programme would acquire practical skills and experiences which they can use to set up productive ventures later in their own communities or elsewhere. They would learn be responsible and take to leadership roles in their communities.

The skills acquired will be used to build their communities into worthwhile places to settle in, instead of them immigrating to the cities and towns as they are doing now. Promising and talented children would be spotted for further training. Those who leave school at any stage would have acquired skills that would help them to be productive.

To adopt a programme of appropriate technology projects into the school system, the programme must be properly planned, selection of projects must be made in relation to community needs, materials available in a locality and academic subjects that need to be learnt.

Social values, attitudes, norms and behaviour considered desirable in the society must also be selected and integrated into the way the projects are carried out, because introduction of such attitudes and values would determine the attitudes and values which would later emerge with the acquisition of the skills, and which will eventually appear in the society.

When we are able to set up such a programme with its roots firmly embedded into the basic fabrics of our society: in our children, and it is supported by the people; nurtured and rejuvenated by our research institutions and our institutions of higher learning, we would have laid a solid foundation for an accelerated socio-economic growth.

Our development would have been based on people, and the people would have been made part of their own development. Eventually, we would manage to modernize our culture and develop our environment. Our nation would then reap what it has sown.

talking drums 1985-12-02 The spy swap Sousoudis for 8 Ghanaians and families