Saturday, October 03, 2009

Why Millions Of Rural Africans Are Poor

By Vincent Obiro Orute Obunga

Each year, millions of rural Africans find that they do not have enough money to meet their basic needs despite the fact that there are signs of money around them. Sometimes the problem is caused by conditions over which they have no control –illness, old age, discrimination, big business, unions, and economic trends such as inflation; if they could they would vote the culprits out of power.

At other times, however, their own choices are directly responsible –low level of education and career selection are two such areas of choice.

If you take a close look at schools in most African countries, the picture that emerges is that they have become “institutional props for the privileged” yet at the same time they are supposed to be instruments of social mobility.

Clearly, we need to consider alternative in education –alternative content and organization. Above all, we urgently need alternative views on education itself, its nature and possible function in society. Alternative education under the concept of life-long learning is an essential philosophy particularly in this era of rapid scientific and technological information advancement. It ‘s also important to provide ammunition to fight the socio-economic forces, create cultural and demographic awareness in the people and the need to continue learning throughout life. Through this, rural Africans will be equipped and enabled to respond effectively to the changes around them.

According to a recent report of inquiry into education system in Africa, marginalization from the global business due to our low capacity of information use makes us vulnerable to all manner of exploitation by the advanced nations.

This marginalisation occurs not only as a result of our economic poverty but much more so due to our limited knowledge base.

Since the quest for knowledge and its utility are the current measure of human progress across the globe, our survival hangs very much on the extent to which we give due emphasis to education.

Education should be viewed as a process that is not limited to formal or institutional learning only. Rather, it should go beyond the classroom to include cultural and creative activities. The emphasis here in my considered opinion should be to motivate people of all ages and background to continue learning for the sake of acquiring knowledge.

Concerted efforts should also be made to expand and strengthen the campaign for the reduction of illiteracy through the development of reading material couched in local language (i.e. Kiswahili).

Learning materials that would help the youth cope with the society and understand the rest of the world should also be produced in local language (i.e Kiswahili) and made available to them.

The number of teachers for these literacy programmes can be increased through recruitment and in- service training and the use of retired teachers. We have behaved hypocritically by allowing our retired teachers languish in abject poverty instead of utilizing them.

To ensure the efficiency of civic education programmes, there is need for a close collaboration between the government, NGOs and the private sector so that areas of greater need can be identified, prioritized and addressed in a timely manner.

As I had mentioned earlier, school should not be the only place for teaching. And in Africa as we all know, the radio, above all transistor sets, allows the great world news to be instantly known in the most remote corners of the earth. Sometimes when you visit the rural villages of Africa, you hear over the radio “This is Washington DC, “This is BBC London,” “This is Moscow,” and so on. This clearly shows that the entire world is known to the entire world.

Clearly, we need a general civic education. We must foster a more rational scientific outlook toward life. We must understand our true history, our environment –natural and social. We must confront age –old discrimination against certain groups in our society –including women.

Civic education in my opinion should also deal with the evils in society, economic as well as moral.

Civic education should cultivate in the people a sense of self – reflection and the ability to manipulate nature for survival.

And the question we must seek at answer is: What is it that schooling actually does if its education function is laden with archaic administrative philosophies that lead it to rapidly lose touch with the very people it is meant to serve?

Vincent Obiro Orute Obunga is executive director Volunteer network Africa,
a volunteer organization committed to social and economic change across the globe,
Email: or orute_obiro@hotmail.comor

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