Africa and Africanity Lecture Series; Ethics in Higher Education: An African Perspective

This was the third Lecture in our lecture series on 'Africa and Africanity'. This Lecture on  'Ethics in Higher Education: An African Perspective' focused on education and technical skills that people require to make decisions on the basis of rationalized processing.

January 04, 2021

The English word “Education” has to do with the formation of persons for responsible adulthood in particular cultural settings. At the same time “Schooling”, has to do with young horses undergoing the drills for enabling them to perform routines. “Training” has to do with dogs undergoing routines that must be followed when responding to a disturbance. Training also refers to the drill of athletes while doing practice in preparation for competitions. People requiring technical skills undergo training. Trainees ought as early as possible to make decisions on the basis of rationalized processing.

While it is relatively easy to train a dog and also school a horse, educating a person is complicated – especially because the circumstances in real life are neither predictable nor routine. Thus a horse and a dog can be schooled or trained with robotic drills. A person who is educated will bear full responsibility for his or her choices, and actions. Cultural alienation makes education difficult in situations where the curriculum is alien and alienating.

Thus colonial and missionary indoctrination in Tropical Africa was designed for alienating African learners from their own cultural and religious heritage; robotically adopt the alien culture, in the name of Progress and Civilization. This process was rationalized through trivialization and condemnation of the African cultural and religious heritage. These routines were neither voluntary nor anticipated; Africans had either to comply or suffer punishment. In order to survive the majority complied, at least partially, resulting in double-dealing between the old and the new.

Citizens of nations in Tropical Africa, irrespective of their former imperial powers, to survive complied with the imperial rule; at the same time sustaining their traditional norms and values. Achievement of national sovereignty for most African nations was based on negotiation for the transition from colonial domination to independence. Africans continued with their traditional way of life while on paper they complied as required. In Post-Independence Africa the Colonial Era has not been forgotten, especially in urban areas now surrounded by informal settlements in the periphery. Former Protectorates had less pressure to conform to imperial demands, and for that reason have normatively been closer to their cultural and religious heritage. Africa, anticipating the first centenary of sovereignty in 2063, is formalizing integration, as other continental blocs have done. Higher Education must be at the forefront of this endeavor.

Program Moderator:

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi – Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at The University of Nairobi.



Prof. Roy Joydeep– Adjunct Professor of Economics and Education - Columbia Teachers College.


Webinar Highlights:

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- What do you train? According to the ‘Students Companion,’ you train a dog. What do you school? You school a horse. (Time frame from minute 4:40- 4:51)

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- Globalization has become both a blessing and a curse, a blessing because of the goodies that we enjoy, and a curse because of the liabilities that ensue. Covid- 19 is one of such liabilities, we can’t opt-out of the global village but we must learn to live together in mutual respect and appreciation. (Time frame from minute 6:50- 7:21)

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- Education has much more to do with values than actions, in other words, what we do should be informed by the values that we have acquired. (Time frame from minute 9:18- 9:33)

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- Higher education presupposes lower education that’s why we have the word higher placed there it is not possible for anyone to undergo higher education and succeed if the lower education has been unsuccessful and it is at the value level that higher education becomes most important. (Time frame from minute 9:34- 10:00)

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- In our continent, Kiswahili is now one of the official languages of the African Union. Perhaps before long, it might become the lingua franca of Africa and this is important because as long as Africa continues to use foreign languages we can’t really claim to be truly Africans. (Time frame from minute 10:43- 11:13)

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- Religious texts are the earliest artifacts in most cultures, a culture matures when its own scholars translate the scriptures into the national language. (Time frame from minute 11:45- 12:00)

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- There are more than 2000 languages into which the Bible is being translated as well as Islam is also trying to translate the Quaran from Arabic into these languages. (Time frame from minute 19:05- 19:22)

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- The African Union, in 2013 made up objectives or aims of Africa we want, there are six aspirations and they are simple to internalize if we could only appreciate the work done by our leaders, they are; A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development. An integrated continent politically united based on the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of Africa’s renaissance. An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice, and rule of law. A peaceful and secure Africa. An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values, and ethics. An Africa where development is people-driven, unleashing the potential of its women and youth. A strong, united Africa. (Time frame from minute 21:00- 22:44)

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- Global higher education is like a natural forest, not like a plantation, there are many trees in the global culture forest, germinating from cultural seeds in the soil for each culture. The roots of education are the cultures of learners and educators. (Time frame from minute 31:22- 31:40)

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- Schooling has been the tool for cultural indoctrination, both religious and secular. Tertiary education in Africa is plagued with ethical confusion, burdened with missionary and ideological propaganda. In this third millennium, Africa has its own Agenda for shaping the present and the future.  (Time frame from minute 32:50- 33:10)

Prof. Roy Joydeep- Education must be something broader than we are seen practicing, even schooling is more of the formal act of going to school and completing a curriculum. (Time frame from minute 42:02- 42:15)

Prof. Roy Joydeep- What we find in the context of higher education in the U.S. is that all questions about higher education, have increased and entwined with the question of the labor market right now it’s not about educating others but what can we do to have them succeed in the labor market. (Time frame from minute 47:17- 47:54)

Prof. Roy Joydeep- The path that Africa chooses as individual nations together with each other will be really interesting in terms of how they foster friendships and understanding within the African nations and how they leverage this to move forward. (Time frame from minute 53:54- 54:31)

Professor Jesse N.K. Mugambi- We have to design education in such a way that every point or person on earth can be heard without a hierarchical system, as it is now, its as if Africa is globalized by everybody else whereas Africa does not globalize anybody, there is room for us to influence each other and through such discussions. We can cultivate a way voices can be heard without making them hierarchical. (Time frame from minute 1:01:22- 1:02:15)

Prof. Roy Joydeep- 50% of people always say that they are not applying their skills learned at college at their work, there is a big disconnect between what they learned at college and whether they are applying it. (Time frame from minute 1:10:31- 1:10:46)