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Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa (Volume 14, No.4, 2012) ISSN: 1520-5509 Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Clarion, Pennsylvania

CULTURAL PLURALISM AND THE QUEST FOR NATION BUILDING IN AFRICA: THE RATIONALE FOR MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION

Francis Muchenje Department of Educational Foundations, University of Zimbabwe

ABSTRACT This article seeks to show how multicultural education as a form of education for sustainable development can be used to accommodate the cultural diversity found in many African countries for the purpose of nation building. The article contends that nation building and sustainable development require stable nations in which case multicultural education has a role to play. Multicultural education can be seen as a reform movement that seeks to accommodate society’s cultural diversity leading to sustainable living. The concept of culture is discussed at length in order to create a base for the understanding of the concept multicultural education. The article goes on to look at the role of multicultural education in different school curriculum areas such as: language policy, curriculum content, the school environment and the nature of knowledge where cultural diversity has to be reflected. It is the contention of this paper that these different curriculum areas complement efforts directed towards nation building and sustainable development. The study concludes by highlighting the importance of education during this United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. However the paper also raises the view that the promotion of cultural pluralism and sustainable development should not be left to education alone, all social institutions for example politics and religion have to take a part.

Keywords: culture, multicultural education, sustainable development, cultural diversity, nation building

INTRODUCTION Nation building is an important issue on the political agenda of many African countries and should be viewed as an important process that leads to sustainable development. Many countries on the continent have been pursuing this agenda since the attainment of independence with varying degrees of success. If nation building is to be fully realized the citizens of the different countries have to demonstrate unequivocally a sense of oneness and unity of purpose that enables them to overcome some of the barriers presented by the rich cultural diversity of most African countries. To appreciate the rationale for nation building in Africa it is imperative to examine two related concepts of nation and state. A state is a geographical area governed by a sovereign government (Papp, 1988; Harber, 1994). On the other hand, a nation is an imagined community based on one or more of the following: race, ethnicity language, religion, customs, political memory, culture and ancestry (Andersen 1983 in Jary and Jary, 1995: Harber 1994). The concept of nation brings into play the issue of cultural diversity. The United Nations Declaration on Cultural Diversity argues that cultural diversity is as necessary for human kind as biodiversity is for nature (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable-development Retrieved 24.05.11). Virtually all African nations are single states with cultural sub nationalities (Tlou 1986). Nation building should focus on the accommodation of cultural diversity in the different states. This becomes important when

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one realizes that borders bequeathed by the vagaries of colonialism meant that there was little coincidence between ‘state’ and ‘nation’ (Vail, 1989).

Africa’s colonial past is fraught with examples of how the continent’s cultural diversity was manipulated and exploited by the then colonial masters to perpetuate their own interests and hegemony through in some instances pernicious divide and rule tactics. The attainment of independence in all African countries demands that the issue of nation building be on the political agenda permanently, this...
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