Problems faced by Education in Aiding Decolonization

(1) First of all the colonial system was virtually all pervasive· and permeated all institutions of colonial societies-the economic, political, legal and educational-affecting the total network of values and beliefs which developed in these societies. It is therefore very difficult to bring about any appreciable change by concentrating only on one institution of the society or by relying on one agency-be it education or any other. Any approach towards a transformation of these societies has to be comprehensive, involving changes in most institutions.

Commenting on the relationship between a colony and the metropolitan power Maunicr describes a colony as a “tentacle” of the colonizing state adding further that colonization might exist even though the territory might not legally be a colony. As an example he cited the relationship between independent countries of South America and the U.S.A, and observed that “these countries keep the name of independent states but in fact their loans, their export, their contracts give the U. S. A. an almost “absolute empire over them”.(7)

The assumption of power over the colony by the colonizing state can therefore stem not only from legal control but also from what can be described as financial control over its economy. In addition there can be as Maunicr points out religious and intellectual (and today one would add ideological) domination of one country by another bringing about a relationship which essentially colonial in character.

The point that needs to be emphasized here is that colonialism is not only a legal state and this is why even when a territory secures legal constitutional independence its colonial domination does not automatically end. Economic exploitation still continues though possibly to a lesser degree. In addition, there is usually the preservation of what Maunier calls “a moral bond” between the colony and the mother country which allows suggestions to be made as to laws to be enacted or policies to be followed.

But the least obvious and possibly the most insidious heritage-insidious because its existence is usually denied and it is less obvious because it has been so successfully internalised in the ex-colonial peoples-is the effect of the conditioning which took place during the period of colonial rule developing in the people what the psychologists would call the personality syndrome of dependence. This makes them so heavily dependent on the mother country for ideas and practices that it is often difficult for them to think out their own solutions to their problems. Even when they try to break off this dependence on the mother country they seek a substitute-a “mother substitute” if the psychological analogy is continued-the U.S.A. the U. S. S. R., or some other country, and transfer the same dependency relationship to the substitute. All these factors help to limit the contribution which education can make to the process of decolonization.

(2) Educational Conservatism

The second point is that educational institutions are admittedly very conservative a far as initiating change is concerned. Adam Curle, writing about Education, Politics and Development. noted that “in most societies for most of recorded time education has been a reactionary force rather than a progressive one”. (8)

C.E. Beeby (9) has tried to analyse the causes of this conservatism and among these he mentioned the level of education among teachers, the attitudes of parents; lack of funds for educational reform the inevitable time lag in educational growth, the professional and sometime social isolation of teachers, etc. Many of these are tied up with the level of economic development of the country’s forming somewhat of a vicious circle.

Another important factor leading to educational conservatism in ex-colonial territories is the role of religion in education in these societies. Curle observed that “Education often closely associated with religion has tended rather to hallow antiquity than promote innovation”. (10) And in most colonial and ex-colonial societies formal educational institutions were originally developed by religious bodies.

The West Indies provide a very good example of territories in which religion has played an important role in maintaining the status quo. Here too the churches were largely responsible for making the initial efforts towards the establishment of schools but’ in order to carry on their work they entered into some form of unwritten concordat with the plantation owners – that in their educational efforts they would try not to interfere with existing economic relationships in the society.

In fact in the immediate post-emancipation period missionaries like the Rev. J. Sterling went little further and indicated to the plantation owners that the educational training provided by the Churches could play a positive role in ensuring the preservation of the existing economic and social order; Referring to the ex-slaves, Sterling noted that “the peace and prosperity of the’ empire at large may be not remotely influenced by their moral condition.” And he saw that the efficient – performance- of their functions by the labouring class (largely the ex-slaves) will “depend entirely on the power over their minds”. Education, he urged, would give this “power over minds of the labouring classes and warned that if this matter of education is not taken in hand the certain results of the new situation …. will be a consciousness (by the labouring classes) of their own independent value as rational beings without reference to the purposes for which they may be profitable to others – thus influencing the peace and prosperity of the Empire” (11)

Although the statement was made over a century ago this attitude to education as a major instrument in producing social conformity is instrument in producing social conformity is still shared today by many teachers who tend to emphasize very heavily the value of behaviour patterns which can be described as negative, accommodating or inhibitory adjustments to social situations and the exiting social order- obedience, respect for authority, good conduct order, etc. They tend to put correspondingly much less emphasis on the development of a critical attitude of mind among the students which might later lead them to ask meaningful and relevant questions about the existing social order. This observation holds true even for methods of teaching used in the schools with such practices as rote learning, the equating of teaching with the imparting of knowledge, the development among children of a great respect for the written word, being quite common in most educational institutions and practised even by well qualified teachers.

Speaking more recently on the point Professor Braithwaite in an address to West Indian educationists in 1957 on the “School Curriculum and the Emergent Needs of Society” summarizes the problem in this way: “The impulse for education came during the period of emancipation when educational goals were different – based as they were, on the incorporation of slaves as citizens, with the Church being used as an agency for this purpose, and its teaching, stressing one’s duty to one’s neighbours, the virtue of humility, the need to carry oneself lowly and reverently before one’s teachers, masters and betters, to be content with one’s lot and to be an obedient citizen. When this purpose disappeared in the 19th and early 20th century education was never defined in terms of West Indian purposes” (12)