Impact of colonial education in Africa

Essay Questions

  1. Using two texts, write about the impact of colonial education in Africa. Think in terms of what it does to persons and local and national communities.

Colonialism impacted the lives of the people and communities of Africa in significant ways. Although the Africans struggled to maintain their traditions and customs, they came to realize that change was inevitable since the Europeans controlled the political, social, and economic systems. This prompted novelists such as Tsitsi Dangarembga and Ngugi wa Thiong’o to take the center stage in expressing the frustrating situation of Africans during the post-colonial era in their literature works. The current essay examines the impact of colonial education in Africa as depicted in Nervous Conditions and Weep Not, Child. These novels portray education as a paradoxical medium that enables characters not only to gain knowledge and skills, but also to experience the negative impact or effect of colonialism on their lives.

Initially, both novels portray education in the positive light. In Weep Not, Child, education is seen as the key to professional opportunities that can enable one to get money and gain land. That is why Njoroge’s mother thinks that having an educated son is the “greatest reward she would get from her motherhood” (wa Thiong’o 16). In Nervous Conditions, Tambu’s parents get overjoyed when their son Nhamo gets the opportunity to go to school (Dangarembga 29). They believe that education is the only saviour f their son that can enable him to get knowledge and wealth.

As far as wa Thiong’o and Dangarembga are concerned, the colonialists used education as a tool for mental control of the Africans. They specifically used it to promote the Eurocentric view that reveres the superiority and modernity of the white people. For instance, in Nervous Conditions, colonial education has separated Tambu from the life of her family. She wants to live just like the white people. That is why she feels that their “homestead looked worse than usual…” (Dangarembga 123). On the other hand, in Weep Not, Child, Njoroge becomes frustrated when he realizes that education has not helped him to achieve his dreams. He wants to leave Kenya since he feels there is nothing good that he can fight for (wa Thiong’o 143). It is the Eurocentric values that make him to think so.

Both Weep Not, Child and Nervous Conditions also depict the impact of colonial education on gender dynamics. In wa Thiong’o’s book, Njoroge is given the opportunity to attend school since he is a son who has the potential (wa Thiong’o 15). Nothing much is said about the education of her sisters. In the same way, Dangarembga’s novel shows how the education of Tambu’s brother is prioritized. Tambu herself is forced to earn money for her to go to school (Dangarembga 86). Thus, both instances show how the colonial education promoted patriarchal ideologies that encouraged boys’ education more than that of girls.

  1. Elizabeth in A Question of Power comes to believe that the divine is within her. How
    does she arrive at this realization?

The book A Question of Power explores the inner chaos and experiences of a young woman.  Her struggle with tormenting dreams tends to threaten her stability. The two men, Dan and Sello, who plague her represent ideas of politics, religion, sex, individuality, and good and evil. Elizabeth’s troubles end up with an important revelation that makes her happy. She discovers that “There is only one God and his name is Man. And Elizabeth is his prophet” (Head 206). This essay explains how she arrives at the realization of having the divine within her.

Bessie Head uses religious allusion and symbolism in describing Elizabeth’s divinity. Elizabeth’s statement above on which her revelation is based is derived from the dramatic statement that Prophet Mohammed once made. He said, “There is only one God and his name is Allah. And Mohammed is his prophet. The prophet made this assertion after meeting with God in a dream. In the same way, Elizabeth meets both Sello and Dan in dreams (Head 38 and 49). That is why she is comparing her revelation with that of Mohammed.

Dan and Sello are engaged in a tussle since they are competing for the attention of Elizabeth. Sello is kind to Elizabeth. He informs her that “Love is two people mutually feeding each other…” (Head 197). On her part, Dan does not care about Elizabeth that much. That is why she even mocks her that she is not genuinely African. The competing interests of the two men are representative of the war between good and evil. Sello symbolizes God while Dan signifies Satan. The two are fighting for the attention of humankind represented by Elizabeth.

It is also important to note that Elizabeth moves from South Africa to Botswana due to lack of pure identity. During the apartheid period, marriage between the blacks and whites was not allowed. Unfortunately, Elizabeth was a product of this union. As a result, she suffered from an identity crisis and psychological torture. Sello and Dan play important roles in her life. They help her discover to her true identity at the end of the novel. For instance, Sello subjects Elizabeth to a series of criticisms and comments (Head 76). Such discussions help her to rediscover her identity. On the other hand, Elizabeth credits Dan with teaching her love, truth, and self-control (Head 203).  These are important virtues that enable her to understand her identity.

  1. Why do you think Bofane writes a satire rather than a realistic novel?

Congo Inc.: Bismarck’s Testament is a novel that presents the paradoxes of globalization in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It explores the life of a young Congolese, Isookanga, who leaves the village in Congo forest to enjoy the world of technology and commerce in the capital Kinshasa. The novel emphasizes on how the transnational economic system is both exploitative and beneficial to the locals. This essay discusses why Koli Jean Bofane chose to present a satire instead of a realistic novel.

There are many ways in which the author of the novel uses satire to tell his story. To start with, the book presents a community thorn between accepting change and rejecting it. Isookanga is presented as a young man who makes an attempt to reject the village life of the pygmies at the forest clan of Ekonda. He tends to favor the lifestyle of a global community. When the communications company brings a cellular tower to the village, the locals try to question its impact on the ecosystem. Isookanga expresses his support to the technology by saying this: “I have to put up with old-world monkeys in the forest. Is that what life has in store for me? I am an internationalist who aspires to becoming a globalizer” (Bofane 11).

Although Isookanga is doing everything to be part of the global world, the readers are left wondering when they look at the means that he is trying to use to explore this identity. He embraces a video game known as ‘Raging Trade’ in which players have to use economic, militaristic, and diplomatic methods in order to conquer large territories (Bofane 97). The game serves as a metaphor for a hyper-globalized world that is led by an elite class that uses technology in manipulating the geo-political aspects of life.

It is as well important to note that Bofane presents an international cast of different characters who range from children running from violence experienced in the countryside to Chinese nationals and UN agents (Bofane 133). The characters reveal the political and the economic status of Congo within the global space. They also represent the imbalance of distribution of wealth in the country. It shows that although the country is in the forefront in exporting natural resources such as uranium, it is only the ruling class that enjoys the associated financial gains. The majority of the citizens are left poor.

  1. In Maps, for Askar to become a soldier, he has “to kill his mother.” What does that mean?

Nuruddin Farah’s Maps features an orphaned Somali child called Askar. The boy had a traumatic childhood since he lost both parents at a tender age. He is rescued by an Ethiopian woman called Misra who takes care of her. After witnessing a series of violent events in Somalia, Askar contemplates of becoming a soldier in the future so that he can help in defending his country. Unfortunately, Misra is later on accused of betraying the Somali army, and is murdered. Askar is one of the suspects in the murder since he belongs to the Western Somali Liberation Front that kills his adoptive mother. The essay examines what it means for the boy to kill his mother in order to become a soldier.

After Askar is taken in by Misra, there develops a close relationship between the two. The woman adores the boy as her son since she has lost her own son who is considered “illegitimate.” On his part, Askar sees her as the substitute of his own mother. Unfortunately, all this changes when this boy moves to live in Mogadishu with the family of his uncle Hilaal. He becomes embarrassed that once she was very close to Misra and that she shared life with her (Farah 61). At this point, the reader wonders why there is a sudden change of feelings about the woman that Askar was once proud of.

Being a soldier has much to do with loyalty to one’s country. Askar has to choose between living with his Ethiopian adoptive mother, and living with his Somali relatives in Mogadishu. He chooses t abandon Misra for her relatives (Farah 48). When Misra is accused of being a traitor, Askar is unable to defend her since he has to demonstrate loyalty to Somalia. This demonstrates an aspect of betrayal to a woman who once served as his mother. Ironically, Misra’s death does not pave way for Askar to become a soldier. He is thorn between joining the military, and going to university (Farah 146). One can say that this is the price he pays for betraying Misra.

  1. It’s not just money that corrupts in Congo Inc but the quest after a quick payload (think

gold rush fever). Explore how this pursuit of easy riches has impacted on the DRC.

Money is a necessary evil. It brings along an insatiable desire since people want more of it. As a result, many are ready to do anything in order to get it. This opens the way for corruption, and other bad habits. Congo is a wealthy nation endowed with important natural resources. One of the most important resources in the county is gold. Instead of being a source of prosperity to the people of the country, many languish in poverty. It is only a few in the ruling class who benefit from the gold rush fever. This essay affirms that in the Congo Inc, it is not just money that corrupts, but the quest for a quick payload. It looks at how the pursuit for easy reaches has affected or impacted the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In his book, Bofane presents the DRC as a country that as failed not only politically, but also economically. Even though huge amounts of gold and other minerals are smuggled out of the country, majority of the citizens do not benefit. People like Isookanga have big dreams. The young man wants to become rich (Bofane 32). That is why he decides to leave village life in order to join street children, warlords, and international businessmen. Unfortunately, he does not achieve his dram since he ends up leading a miserable life in the city.

The picture of the DRC portrayed in the Congo Inc is one of a country that is struggling with civil conflicts, corrupt governance, and abuse of human rights. Gold is one of the major sources of all these issues. Although people in the country have the chance to use its riches in order o improve their lives, they are doing nothing significant to achieve this. They are only obsessed with online games such as ‘Raging Trade’ (Bofane 98). Such games have nothing to do with the real lives of the people of the DRC.

Works Cited:

Bofane, Koli Jean. Congo Inc.: Bismarck’s Testament. Indiana University Press, 2018.

Farah, Nuruddin. Maps. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2016.

Head, Bessie. A Question of Power. Heinemann, 1974.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Weep Not, Child. Penguin Books, 2012.

Tsitsi Dangarembga. Nervous Conditions. The Seal Press, 1988.

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