Monday, April 9, 2012

Education Is The Key

I finally got to watch an earlier edition of BBC's "Africa Debates", that was held in Accra, Ghana on Jan 27th. It made for some interesting viewing. What captured my attention was a comment made by one of the panelists, Kuseni Dhlamini of South Africa. He said that many African Govts deliberately abandon the public-education sector in order to disempower the citizenry, and to preempt any checks on their overwhelming powers from a literate populace (demanding economic and democratic justice).

This statement was glossed over and the panelists went on to deliberate over other issues. But I feel that education (or the lack of) is the key issue bedevelling the African Continent. To be educated is to be empowered. Having a thorough and comprehensive public-education system is the greatest duty of any developing country. It's even more important than the other essentials of development: roads, rail, potable water and telecommunications.

I'll use Angola and Mali  to show how nations disempower their citizenry through their sinister education-policies (or the lack off). Angola receives anywhere from $50Bil to $75Bil yearly from oil sales, and yet illiteracy -- in that country of 18 million -- is over 50%. Why is this so? Well, Angola's ruling elite knows all-too-well that if literacy rates reached over 90%, then people will be empowered enough to demand more democratic rights and accountability, and that would be the end of the corrupt rule of Angola by a narrow coastal-based elite. So, their solution to this convoluted dichotomy? Kill off the public-education sector and keep the masses in a state of ignorance and misery. That way, they'll never have the wherewithal, the means, to demand for their rights.

In Mali, the noted intellectual Cherif Keita has stated that during the reign of military dictator Moussa Traore, the most determined defiance of his regime came from Mali's public-school educators. So what did the evil dictator do? He deliberately maligned the public-school sector, stripped it of resources, and eventually forced many capable teachers to flee to neighboring countries.

That's how the erstwhile dictator of Mali got rid of his most fierce opposition (and wrecked the future economic prospects of his country in the process). So there it is: Education (or the lack off) is the key in dictating the democratic and economic progress of a country.

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