The content of indigenous education had much stress on the communal and social aspect rather than on an individual.
Indigenous education encouraged togetherness or corporation rather than competition as it is today. In short, competition was discouraged in any way possible; instead unit was always the talk of the day in indigenous education rather than today’s education which encourages competition.
African children in pre-colonial period learnt what they lived due to the fact that traditional education was meaningful, unifying, holistic, effective, practical and relevant to the individual as well as the community at large. It created strong human bonds because it involved the whole community. It was also recommended for the fact that there was separation between education ands the world of work. Thus, it reached out to and educated the whole person.
Teacher education from an African-American perspective, by Asa G. Hilliard, III
Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Urban Education; Georgia State University/
African History Of Education
Abundant oral and written records exist to describe the history of education on the African continent, especially its ancient and indigenous forms (Tedla, 1995). The best recorded ancient tradition of primary, secondary and higher education in the entire world is found in the Nile valley complex of cultures. This includes Cushitic and Kemetic centers of high culture, that is "Ethiopia," Somalia, Sudan, Nubia and Egypt. Ancient texts exist in Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, texts containing philosophy, religion, science and the arts (Budge, 1928; Diop, 1991; Hilliard, 1989, 1986, 1985; Obenga, 1992, 1995; Unesco, 1981). Not only are these traditions ancient, they are also profound models for excellence in education.
In simple, summative terms we may say that, continent-wide, Africans regarded the education process as a transformative process, one in which a person becomes not only schooled but socialized. A person becomes different, a person becomes more godlike, more human, by virtue of the cultivation rendered through the education and socialization process. It was a process rooted in a world view where there was a belief in human perfectibility, the belief that humans could indeed become more like god. Basic skills were merely the lowest level of education. The development of character, humaneness and spirituality were higher levels of attainment
In order to become more like God, Africans believed in an education that was directed at the mind, the body and the spirit, inseparable parts of our human individual and community whole. The African world view does not emphasize individuals. The individual is a part of a group, an ethnic group, a collective. The individual is bonded through the education/socialization process. The ideal for both the person and the group was to become god-like, specifically in adhering to the principles of MAAT (truth, justice, order, reciprocity, harmony and balance)
Africans expected that, with cultivation, the African mind could be developed to higher and higher levels, from the concrete to the abstract, from the profane to the divine. One way of expressing these levels of mental attainment that come as a consequence of a spiritually oriented training process is that offered by the traditional practices of the Dogon. For the Dogon, education is virtually a life-long process. At the first level, Giri So, as Marimba Ani has shown (Ani, 1994), is the word at face value, or simply perception without understanding. As the student increased in depth of knowledge and understanding, they reach the second level, Benne So , or the "word from the side," which means, having sight and developing a perspective. The third level is Bolo So, or "the word from behind," which means the development of insight. The final level was So Dayi, the "clear word," meaning the development of vision.
The aim of African education for the mind could not be separated from education for the body, which was also seen as a divine temple, housing a spirit. As a result, the education for mind and body was also linked to education for the spirit. Therefore, in African tradition, it is the role for the teacher to appeal to the intellect, to appeal to the humanity, to appeal to the physical, and to appeal to the spiritual in their students. Of course, in order to make such an appeal, one must be convinced of the inherent intellectual capability of students, the inherent humanity of students, the inherent physical capability of students, and the inherent spiritual character of students.
The Miseducation Of Africans:
The Role Of Schools And Academicians
Over the past four centuries Africans have endured overt white supremacist belief and behaviors. The schools have been used as one of the major tools to structure the domination of Africans by Europeans through curriculum, school structure and methods of instruction and public policy
I do not believe that the full import of this fact has yet been understood. Not only have Africans been deprived of school, but school itself has been used a tool to prevent educational advancement and to ensure domination. To some extent, the teacher education curriculum has been used to rationalize domination and itself has sometimes been a tool of domination.
It is interesting to note the dialogue in discussions of school problems today: "school reform," "minimum competency," "effective schools," "school choice," "charter schools," "vocational education," "school restructuring," "site-based management," "total quality management," "minority to majority bussing," "year-round schools," "magnet schools" and, strangely, "boot camp." While the effort marked by these labels certainly deserves attention, little in this language for talking about school problems seems to refer to the higher-order goals of intellectual development, character development and, of course, spiritual development.