Modern education & crises of identity, importance of traditional education
Preamble: Nigeria is not left out in the global secularization that is rapidly loosening the grip of faith and morals on modern humankind. In the pro-colonial society for instance, people refrained from breaching traditional and or any other regulation because they believed that the earth deity and the ancestor would always seek them out and punish them. Today however, a modern man/woman believes no longer in the omnipresence of the ancestors but in the state political institutions. For them, it is the state, that searches out and punishes, and so if the state is not able to dictate him and his crime he thinks he is free from punishment. Similar trend is witnessed in educational activities. With secularization of education in African and the corruption in education that followed, this article asks: how can one remain in African society with all its rapid scientific and technological items and still uphold the cultural values and ancestral heritage inherent in the traditional education system? This article searches for answer in response to the breakdown of moral and religious values in our present educational system. An attempt will be made to resurrect the traditional educational principles of our people buried by secularization and corruption in order to incorporate them into our present education system.
Traditional African Education, Meaning and Goals:No study of the development of formal education in Nigeria is complete without adequate knowledge of the traditional or indigenous educational form prevalent in Africa before the arrival of Christianity or Islam. Traditional education is old as man himself in Africa. Hence, it is and will always be a key factor in the education of Africans. (Fafunwa, 1974:15). The question is what is traditional education? It could be defined as the education form that was handed down to succeeding generations in the traditional African society quit apart from the western education of the modern school system (Taiwo 1980:178,179). It is otherwise known as pre-colonial African education.
Traditional education like in other part of the world is informal, i.e. it was characterized by the absence of students/pupils with uniforms, regimentation, tabulated curriculum, permanent teachers and permanent classes. However, it had a defined goal, which is to enable children grow into the functional members of their families and the society at large. From this point of view it can be induced that an educated man is one who has sound morals, who respect the laws of the land and can participate meaningfully in the life of the family and the society in which he lives in. This educational objective is achieved via the educational approach known as socialization.
Socialization: The term socialization according to Wikipedia is a term used by sociologists, social psychologists, anthropologists, political scientists and educationalists to refer to the lifelong process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs and ideologies, providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within his or her own society. It is thus “the means by which social and cultural continuity are attained”.ClueBot NG, (n.d) socialization, Retrieved from wikipedia
Simply put, the informal education actively means the formation of the human person and personal identity by social process. (Groome, Thomas,1980:109). Here, one talks of the formative power of socialization in the formation of the human person when one thinks of the pre-colonial Igbo society in the Eastern part of Nigeria, it was a type that was non-literary and whose educational form was no formal, yet Igbo children and youth of that era were inducted properly into the life style of their ancestors. Socialization has person-hood, self or identity as key words. In that case self-connotes: one’s self (i.e. the person), who goes through an experience, one’s world view or environment that constitutes the bulk of experience one lives; one’s value system, i.e. the offshoot of one’s experience within one’s world view. Brought together in the process of socialization, these three constituent elements helps form and build up his identity; Identity here means “the continuous awareness we have of our self-image, word view, and value system” (Groome, Thomas, 180:110). A person who grows up in any part of Africa and imbibed the traditional values and cultural identities of that society carries it everywhere he goes and is known as a man/woman from that particular society. Socialization has also to do with ‘the other’ in the process, learners are exposed to what Bab Fafunwa calls participatory education through ceremonies, rituals, recitation and demonstration (Fafunwa 1974:15-16). By this, they grow in knowledge by learning from those around them, by observing, doing and internalizing. One see this method applied in the various fields of learning that traditional education could offer; in occupational subjects like farming and carving or recreational subjects like story-telling and the use of proverbs. These are all practical subject conveyed through the socialization process. Thus becoming an African via socialization
The process of socialization and education in the traditional African society was not rigidly compartmentalized, but for the sake of clarity, we shall divide this section into different compartments as is the case of in formal education.
Primary socialization. A child in the traditional African society begins his journey of becoming an African through socialization in the family, nuclear and extended. The institution was for the pro-colonial African society what nursery and primary schools are to the formal education system. Hare the child learns to crawl and walk learns to eat and drink. By the time the child reaches the age of four or five, he begins to fetch water and firewood, he also hKn to sweep, wash and keep the environment clean, make fire for cooking, run errands etc. by this time he/she must have grown enough to begin to interact with neighbors. The traditional education form is organized in such a way that mothers play a prominent role in the upbringing of a child. Children stay closer to their mothers- preparing food and sleeping with them in their hots- till the age of puberty then the boys begins to identity more with their fathers. (Ikegbusi 1989:28-31). This, of course does not mean that the fathers’ role at this stage of socialization process is passive. On the contrary, both parents and even close relations and neighbors join in initiating children into religious and sociocultural life of the people at this primary phase of their character formation. The power of socialization in the upbringing of a child cannot be overemphasized. The family is the starting point of this process.
Secondary socialization: The pro-colonial African society was very sensitive to anything that leads to immoral acts between boys and girls. So as soon as children approached puberty, the culture separated the male from the female One may compare this stage of interaction with secondary school in the formal education system. At this stage, the boy begins to identify more with their fathers and the girl with their mothers, with each sex being in the life style peculiar to their gender. Chinua Achebe in Things fall Apart is very detailed on this point. He portrays in the book the grown up males in Okonkwo’s family, Nwoye and Ikemefuna as always staying with Okonkwo in his Obi, listening to masculine stories while the girls, Obiageli, Ezinma and Nkechi stayed with their mothers listening to female stories. The girls were also sleeping with their mothers, cooking with them and engaging in other women’s house and farmland works (Achebe, Chinua, 1958:37). This type of learning process, i.e. learning in other to handle like the teacher, is popular among the traditional Africans and it is regarded as a means to an end and not as an end itself.
Tertiary socialization: This stage of socialization begins when I child gets to the age of fifteen or sixteen. At this age they begin to interact, relate and meet with people of the same sax on a higher level. Activities hare can be compared to activities in the higher institutions of learning. Children’s interaction with people and their environment spread out to the village and clan’s societal units. As part of socialization, puberty rites of passage, introduction to age grade association, initiation into masquerade/secrete cult etc. occur at this stage of growth. By the time one goes through this stage of learning process, he becomes fully mature to be able to form a home, attend village meetings and handle certain responsibilities within his town/village.
The Relevance of the Traditional African Education. Traditional African education set out to achieve three concrete objectives namely, bringing up children in conformity with local norms and culture, training them to be self-reliant, and lastely Grooming them for special professions and arts, such as, family craft, secrete organizations, religious priesthood, divination, medicine and surgery, etc. in line with the needs of the traditional community in question. This education form has character formation, physical and intellectual skills development, vocational training, family life, communal spirit development and initiation into the cultural life of the community as its content. The objectives determined the curriculum’s contents and the activities of participants in the learning process. The writings of African scholars show that there are a number of elements that made it possible for traditional African education to realize its set goals. Some of which are the mother tongue, religion, proper sense of mission on the part of the educators, environmental and sociocultural factors. These are the enabling factor or working instruments that made traditional African education effective.
It is unfortunate to note that our present educational system have wonderful set objectives, as well as elaborate curriculum contents, but fall short of the above educational enabling factors. The absence of these traditional African educations is the cause of the ineffectiveness of the present Nigerian education system and therefore the near collapse of morals in the African educational system. School children found themselves amidst crisis of identity. They are neither African nor European, civilized nor uncivilized, enlightened or not. The Nigerian educational system and the society at large, are entrenched in similar confused state of affair. There is also confusion in the language of communication school children no more speak their native dialect. Contrary to mother tongues the natural vehicle of culture and learning
Conclusion: From the foregoing, we have seen that the content of the curriculum of African traditional education was very comprehensive and based on the philosophy underlying the various job responsibilities in society. It was very pragmatic, entrepreneurial and was designed to form a gate-way to life in the society. Although the education activities could be ancient in form, but it has very wonderful instruments, which in my opinion, could serve as ‘the founded capital of a learning process’ which should be conserved and made available to our children for use in the present time.