Tradition and Educational Reconstruction in Africa in Postcolonial and Global Times: The Case for Sierra Leone

by Yatta Kanu

Abstract

Critique of colonial and postcolonial education in Africa as perpetuating cultural and intellectual servitude and devaluation of traditional African cultures has led some African intellectuals to call for a re-appropriation of pre-colonial forms of education to rediscover the roots of African identity. But precisely how can African traditional forms of education be re-appropriated for this purpose while at the same time responding to the requirements of living successfully in postcolonial and global times? The author of this article posits that re-appropriation of African traditions should not be an appeal to an allegedly “better” past to which we nostalgically return instead of responding to the world as it comes to us. Tradition, it is argued, exists only in constant alteration; tradition can be rethought, transmuted, and recreated in novel ways in response to the meanings and demands of emergent situations. Drawing on the Akan concept of Sankofa (meaning “return to the past to move forward”) and the postcolonial notion of hybridity, the author creatively re-appropriates some indigenous educational traditions of her ethnic group, the Mende of Sierra Leone, to theorize curriculum and pedagogy for Sierra Leone in postcolonial, post-war, and global times.

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Yatta Kanu is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. Her recent scholarly work focuses on curriculum, culture and student learning, and education in postcolonial contexts.