When I Think About It
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
—William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming
Yeats uttered these famed lines in 1919 to capture the general state of mind in the aftermath of WWI; an illustrative war, which marked the highest stage of European inter-imperial rivalries, during which the best truly lacked conviction while the worst were full of passionate intensity. After all, if John Stuart Mill is to be correct—as I believe he is—“Bad [M]en need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good [M]en should look on and do nothing”. Though the subsequent post-1919 events proved Yeats’ foresight right, the current developments point to a historical period whereby an “enormous” anarchy seems to be loosed upon the world: Trump’s America First is tightening its fists, the end of the Cold War decades ago has not entirely eliminated the possibilities of a nuclear war, the Mediterranean has become an unceremonious graveyard, and inland human tragedies are prevalent in nearly every corner of the globe.
Yet these issues will not be my primary focus in this piece; instead, my focus will be on the unsettling yet urgent problems of the failing educational systems in Africa. From the antiquated curricula, which seldom get updated, and the ill-equipped schools to the never-ending teachers’ strikes, and the idly embittered students, the education system in this part of the globe has been crumbling before our very eyes—too loudly, for too long. Yet little close to nothing is ever done to attend to it. It is as though the system was of a Kafkaesque nature, an Edu-dysfunctional scheme with which everything seems terribly wrong and with which there is a dire need of turnabout.
Once a week we would have a two-hour session of Informatique course (Computer Science), where we were supposed to be familiarized with the basics of information and communication technology. Though the course was compulsory, one genuinely wonders about the real rationale behind such an educational policy. To some extent, one may be taught to fairly grasp the basics of Biology without a laboratory; but to institute a compulsory Informatique course, to teach computing without computers is abysmally a glaring proof of the dysfunctionalities of the educational system. Indeed, it is no more possible to truly master the features of a Microsoft Word processing window without a computer than it is to form a guitarist without a guitar, a pilot without a flying plane. Yet that is exactly how I spent my seven years in high school (un)learning various computer programs i.e. turning computer ON/OFF, Microsoft Word, Excel, etc. etc.
Our Informatique lectures were a sheer boredom, and usually ran in the following fashion: “to start a computer, press the power bottom; to open a new file double-click on the icon; to select a text, press Ctrl + A; to copy, Ctrl + C; to cut, Ctrl + X; to paste, Ctrl + V; to save, Ctrl + S … and to close the computer switch off the power bottom”. After spreading all these universal, convoluted formulas and figures on the blackboard, the teachers or inforamticiens (computer technicians)—as they are called in French—are obliged to double-check that their students (read we) have correctly and squarely transferred them to their (our) individual notebooks. That is, utilizing multi-colored pencils, we would be tasked to draw, as succinctly as our drawing abilities could allow, what we saw on the blackboard. Ultimately, at least two sources of potential mistakes would stem from these proceedings: one from the erroneous representations by the inforamticiens themselves, the other from the students’ drawings—or even a combination of both.
Personally, for instance, I’m terrible at drawing, and I find no pleasure in performing such a task. I hardly need, therefore, to confess that I seldom got these drawings right and rarely would I perform well in Informatique examinations. With the above-described teaching methods, students learn—if they learn anything at all—neither by touching the machines (PCs) nor by typing on the keyboards, not even as standby observers, but through graphic representations. In fact, computers, including their features and programs were, to us, an abstract idea, perceived only through imagination, graphic portrayals, and drawings, as though it were a kind of imperceptible dream. As such, it is indeed easy to see that such an educational system unspeakably suffers great setbacks.
In his overly dramatized lecture, Monotheism and its Discontents, Vidal points out that: “The word "radical" derives from [radix,] the Latin word for root. Therefore, if you want to get to the root of anything you must be radical. It is no accident that the word has now been totally demonized…, and no one… dares even use the word favorably, much less track any problem to its root.” Perhaps, more than ever before, it is time to get radical in uprooting the infectious plague that has been affecting education in the continent for too long now.
 Vidal, G. (1992). Monotheism and its discontents. Nation, 255(2), 37-41.
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