Championing the transformation of African society

Published on Pambazuka News, by Horace Campbell, Issue 500 Oct. 14, 2010.

‘Unity is indispensable in order for the peoples of Africa to live in peace, improve their quality of life, restore the natural environment, repair the human spirit and the earth,’ but there are challenges Pan-Africanism must overcome to achieve it. Horace Campbell looks at the role Pambazuka News has played in nurturing networks for the emancipation of the continent, and how it can champion transformation by ’strengthening popular power’.

‘Through the voices of Africa and the global South, Pambazuka Press and Pambazuka News disseminate analysis and debate on the struggle for freedom and justice.’

As Pambazuka News reaches the point of its 500th issue, it offers an opportunity to assess its relationship to the global Pan-African movement and the tasks for the next 500 issues … // 


There are many ways the Pan African challenges of today calls for a new witness and a new testimony for transformation. In short, the community to which Pambazuka belongs is one that emerged from human rights struggles but is now firmly within the camp of those working for the complete dismantling of the current structure of education so that we can move from education for submission and exploitation to a path of Pan-African education for reconstruction and transformation.

The same colonial and slave masters who dehumanised African peoples understood that dehumanisation require an ideological component to supplement naked force. Hence, the dominant form of education in Africa today remains a weapon for the oppression of the African people both on the continent and in the diaspora. It is now clearer that a large percentage of the education in Africa was to produce easily manipulated and unhealthy human beings. More than 50 years ago, Frantz Fanon wrote on the question of the link between unhealthy minds and the destructive education system. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o has been writing on the need for the ‘Decolonization of the Mind’. Popular Pan-Africanists such as Bob Marley called for the ‘emancipation from mental slavery.’ Progressive Pan-Africanists such as Julius Nyerere, Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Kwame Nkrumah, and Amilcar Cabral have all articulated the importance of education for self-reliance and the moral education that inspires a heritage of sharing and generosity. It is not by chance that Pambazuka was represented in Tanzania at the Nyerere festival in April this year, where different progressive forces came together to chart a way for strengthening a new process of education. It is this qualitative transformation of African education that is now being reflected upon by new organs across Africa and beyond, whether it is the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) or the African language scholars who are working for African cultural renaissance in the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN). Pambazuka is integrated into the current struggle for humanisation of all people.

It is becoming clearer everyday that a scientific training that is integrated with African philosophical and knowledge ideas, including ubuntu, must be anchored in African languages. One of the major tasks in the next 500 issues of Pambazuka is to stimulate and mobilise progressive forces to harness material resources for the strengthening of African languages. The billions that are being stolen must be exposed with a view towards strengthening of those institutions within Africa that are dedicated to re-education and re-humanisation. It was Amilcar Cabral who reminded us that that African knowledge and cultures are like seeds waiting for the right conditions for germination. We can see the buds beginning to sprout across Africa, and everyday we see that many of the present rulers of Africa cannot provide the conditions for decent education in Africa. If education is the transmission of values within the society to the next generation, we know that the current values of greed, individualism, corruption, and competition are not the values that can restore the health and humanity of the African people.

The most recent issue of Pambazuka News pointed to the fact that Africa’s education must prepare Africans to be active in sites of technological revolutions that are on the way. Martin Luther King Jr reminded us that the worst thing to do is to sleep through a revolution. Pambazuka reminded its readers of the biotech revolution. Africa remains the continent that is richest in genetic resources. Foreign bio-anthropologists and bio-prospectors are scurrying around African villages to identify African plants and other biological resources over which they seek to deny access by indigenous Africans through the intellectual property rights of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The challenges of African education system on this front are twofold. First, it has to train Africans in the most positive aspects of the African knowledge system to conserve and prudently harness Africa’s biological resources for the improvement of the quality of life of the people. Second, in the emerging era of cognitive technology where Western scientists are seeking to further commodify life and control the human brain and genes for profits, Africa must educate and train the new generation in the principles of ubuntu and Africa’s ontological worldview of life and humanity to stand up for our collective humanity.


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