Professor Magbaily Fyle, Ohio State:
I applaud Edward Kissi's considered comment on the Obasanjo statement. The most important point there, in my impression, is that those in the humanities and social sciences do not spend as much capital on demonstrating the connection between their disciplines and the whole issue of development. I guess for the sciences and computer stuff, it is more obvious. The relevance has to do with the nurturing of the minds of those who will become leaders in society. One of the great problems in Africa today is that no matter whether you have electoral democracy or not, your pool for candidates is the same - the deluded African middle class who all think basically in the same way. So no matter how successful your election is, you get the same mindset and the same policies running your countries. The education they received taught them to believe that there is nothing in African systems worthy of value, of progress, of decent education.
Our task therefore should be how we could alter that mindset. I think the answer lies in education. But it does not really rest solely in doing classics and history. Our concern should be really what is taught in those disciplines. Curricula which teach how good the western countries have been to us would be way off the mark. Similarly would be disciplines which teach little about the local history and studies, or teach them in a way to make Africans feel inferior, which has been one of the hallmarks of the education most of the middle class in Africa have hitherto received. Thus they too deride their own cultures.
The implication of this is that such functionnaries cannot feel proud about their own indigenous backgrounds, only about the degree of western values they espouse. They cannot therefore function well in defending, demanding, negotiating with western elements over their countries' futures because of that innate sense of inferiority. This the education should try to change. So history, sociology, cultural studies, drama, music of Africa are all extremely important to our progress. The curriculum in this regard should be examined closely to make it sound like the students are going through a positive, enlightening experience, and not merely learning about something inferior.
I wish I had tome to elaborate on this some more right now, but I thought I needed to give my two pence worth.