None but ourselves can free our minds…

None but ourselves can free our minds…

Sunday, November 29, 2020

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Colonisation by European countries has been the experience of the majority of countries in the world, sometimes up to 400 years, a legacy of which has been colonisation of the mind.

The decolonisation of education is still a painfully slow process despite Independence, but it has gained momentum across the world, thanks to the added impetus of the Black Lives Matter movement.

United Kingdom-based Times Higher Education found in a recent public opinion survey that 32 per cent of respondents agree that the killing of Black American Mr George Floyd changed their views on the importance or urgency of decolonising high school curriculum.

It is important, of course, that diversity of the student body accompanies new curriculum changes, otherwise there will be no demand for these changes. Creating a movement for change is much more difficult to achieve than changing curriculum, given the history of colonisation.

Jamaica's National Hero Marcus Garvey called for the decolonisation of education from the 1920s, but it did not sink in until reggae icon Mr Bob Marley popularised Mr Garvey's words: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind.”

Late into the 1960s Jamaicans were taking exams set by Cambridge University in England, testing knowledge of curricula in history, literature, and geography that did not include anything on the Caribbean and Africa. The textbooks written and printed in England contained ideas which denigrated African and Caribbean culture and history.

The change has been slow, but exams are now being administered in the Caribbean, curricula have been Caribbeanised, and most of the textbooks are written in the region. Commendation to The University of the West Indies for being in the vanguard of this process.

The remnants of mental colonialism continue in the skin bleaching and the valuing of foreign products over their local counterparts. The decolonisation of education is taking place in a world in which institutional racism ensures that universities in the Western world are still teaching racially biased material and only a relatively small percentage of black students graduate from tertiary level institutions.

Not surprisingly, blacks have never realised their full educational potential; hence, only one black person, St Lucian Sir Arthur Lewis, has been awarded a Nobel Prize in science in over 100 years.

The decolonisation of education has a far way to go, because,what blacks are learning still has little relevant content, and even that is biased. It is not enough to have a course in African history; equally important is the content and perspective.

The decolonisation of the curriculum, it must be said, is not an end in itself. It must more adequately prepare graduates at all levels to be constructive citizens with the skills to succeed in a modern, rapidly changing, globalised world.

Sadly, Western media consistently under-represent black people, their culture, and their issues. For example, the coverage of Africa is virtually absent from regular newscasts and relegated to special half-hour programmes.

The decolonisation of our minds, of course, must be the responsibility of each of us. No use waiting on others to do it.

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