Perspectives on the History of Education in Nigeria, 2008
INDIGENOUS AFRICAN EDUCATION
Dr. (Mrs.) A. A. Jekayinfa
General Principles of Education
Education is a universal process occurring in all human societies involving a society passed on its culture, that is the social, ethical, intellectual, artistic and industrial attainments of the group by which it can be differentiated from another group. It therefore goes on informally and has deep roots in the environment in which it takes place.
No study of the history of education is complete without adequate knowledge of the traditional or indigenous education system prevalent in Africa before the introduction of Islam and Christianity. Every society whether simple or complex, has its own system for training its youth. When a society develops a process related to its environment and passes it on from generation to generation. It becomes peculiar to the members and the environment (Fafunwa, 1974) and may then be safely referred to as indigenous. Thus arises the term indigenous education.
Some of the underlying principles of education in different societies may be dissimilar, but in all cases they are worked out to give every individual the opportunity of growing normally in his society, of acquiring skills with which he can feed himself and his family and of contributing usefully to the common weal. Some societies emphasise some attributes more than the others in the process of achieving this standard aim of education. Thus, while most of the developing societies kill curiosity in their children by restricting their desire to question adults, the more advanced societies encourage their own children to be inquisitive. People believe that this is partly responsible for most of the inventions.
From the study of systems of education in different societies, we know that the environment, the circumstances of the people and what they are struggling to achieve, have effects on the principles of indigenous education. Thus in the ancient world, the Athenians and the Spartans formulated different principles for bringing up their children. In the same way, societies of the third world such as Nigeria and other African countries, where indigenous education is struggling for survival against imported systems of education, had formulated different principles for educating their young ones. Such societies exist throughout the world but out attention here is focused on those in Africa generally and in particular in Nigeria as practical examples for our present purpose. Broadly speaking, they can be said to be homogeneous of the fact that their environment Perspectives on the History of Education in Nigeria, 2008
and certain body characteristics and also their social organization are not too dissimilar.
African traditional education is the type of education that was prevalent in African societies before the introduction of the western European type of education. It was a kind of informal education in which all the members of the community were involved. Generally, the youth learn by imitating the ways of life and activities of the elderly members of the society. For example, the young boys learnt the art of farming by following their fathers and other male elders to the farm and watching how these leaders cleared the land, planted, nurtured and harvested the crops. Later the young ones participated in these activities. Similarly, the girls learnt domestic work by watching and imitating how their mothers and other female elders in the community carried out their domestic chores; for example, how mothers took care of babies and children-bathing and feeding the baby, putting him on her back and rocking him to sleep.
As Fafunwa (1974) observed; functionalism’ is the guiding principle of African traditional education. This is true of the early Greek education particularly Spartan education which also emphasized functionalism. In other words, Africa traditional education,...
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