Address to the Biennial Meeting of the
Association for The Development of Education in Africa
(Adea), Johannesburg, 6 December 1999
Education Ministers from African Countries
Representatives of Donor Organisations
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am honoured to be here today and to welcome to South
Africa all who have travelled from other countries on
our continent and other parts of the world.
I accepted the invitation to speak here today fully
aware that the development of Africa depends today on
educators like yourselves.
It is of enormous importance that we do not falter
to provide an education appropriate to the long-term
needs of our context and in order to equip us fully
to meet the many challenges of the 21st Century.
If the next century is going to be characterised as
a truly African century, for the social and economic
progress of the African people, the century of durable
peace and sustained development in Africa, then the
success of this project is dependent on the success
of our educations systems. For nowhere in the world
has sustained development been attained without a well-functioning
system of education, without universal and sound primary
education, without an effective higher education and
research sector, without equality of educational opportunity.
The enormity of the task at hand is magnified when
we consider the legacy of colonial education, the long-term
effects of the domination of the African peoples both
through brute force and thought control, through divorcing
the African child from his or her own experiences and
environment, through systematic processes of alienation
and also assimilation, in this way bringing about what
Ngugi aptly described as "the domination of the
mental universe of the colonised."
Furthermore, the incorporation of the African people
through colonial education into the capitalist world
was deliberately incomplete, designed to create economic
dependents, an exploited class of labourers, rather
than entrepreneurs and economic producers.
Thus, the natural capacity of Africans to produce was
suppressed, Africa was impoverished by the destruction
of traditional agriculture, thus reducing her own capacity
to feed herself and Africans were forced into becoming
nations of primary producers rather than working together
as builders of enterprises and industries.
Moreover, Africa's own rich legacy of education in
ancient times, its position as a leading centre of learning,
was forgotten as people were pushed back into poverty,
their histories as if wiped out.
Nevertheless, the resilient struggle of our movements
for African liberation produced a common vision of African
unity and development, of an end to the marginalisation
of our continent in world progress and development.
The neo-colonial experience, which simply continued
the systematic exploitation of the African people albeit
in an altered form, and through a new elite that still
acted in the interests of its imperialist masters, together
with the failure of sustained development being possible
in one country alone, further supported the view that
only through continental co-operation and solidarity
could Africa achieve peace, prosperity and a better
life for all its people, nations and countries.
It is in this historical context that intra-African
education institutions and agencies, and the Association
for the Development of Education in Africa in particular,
find themselves today and in which they must collectively
effect change. In this way, through the strengthening
of relations between different countries in the area
of education, we are cementing African unity and becoming
actively engaged as educationalists in a continental
offensive for African social, economic and cultural
Our present phase of development requires the growth
and consolidation of a class of intellectuals whose
fundamental task must be in the economic and social
areas. For, if we are to build entrepreneurs in Africa,
then at the same time we must also build the intelligentsia.
An integrated approach to development tells us that
those who have technical skills and expertise must be
complemented with those who are experts in economics,
in arts and culture, in the sciences, and those who
are directly involved in economic production.
Beyond this, there must be an understanding of the
needs to expand our economies through entrepreneurship,
through creating conditions favourable for job creation.
Thus, the co-operation of the nation states, of government
education departments are also required, for the overall
basis on which we must move forward together as governments,
as entrepreneurs, as academics, must be through partnerships
based on our shared vision and goals for a better life
for all and not as competitors for wealth, monopoly
If we are in agreement that this is the road ahead,
we shall only realise these goals if we have common
concerns. Our common concerns in an African agenda for
education should include:
The sharing of ideas and expertise so as to advance,
in practical ways, the objective of African development.
This also requires a critical and analytical discussion
of what constitutes the kind of intellectual activity
that brings about innovation. In this way, we must activate
our intelligentsia in contributing in concrete, practical
ways towards change.
We must proceed with ongoing, intra-African studies
and research into our rich creative and cultural past
and rekindle interests into African knowledge systems
so as make younger generations aware of the achievements
emanating from our continent and to impress upon them
their inherent creativity, thus setting the stage for
new developments and discoveries.
We must encourage the use of information technology
in education so as to link far-flung places and institutions
of learning, to bridge the gap between urban and rural
areas and to enable African children to advance scientifically
so as to compete on an equal footing with the rest of
The necessary modernisation of our economies depends
on our improving our standards of science education
and building our skills base in science and technology.
We must ensure that measures are put in place to ensure
that women, especially those in rural areas, have access
to education, especially in areas from which they may
have been traditionally excluded.
At all times, we must seek to build a build a better
life for all, so that the poorest of poor have access
to education and the benefits thereof.
For our intellectuals must not become intellectual elites
who build academic cocoons in which they reside in relative
comfort and complacency safe from the problems of the
outside world, but they must actively build a humane
society based on values of caring and co-operation.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is one area of concern that requires
the urgent attention of our intelligentsia. Thus, I
am pleased that both the Education for All and the ADEA
meetings will be tackling this issue head-on, for only
in this way can solutions be identified.
I am pleased that this association, through its programmes,
especially its "Intra-African Exchanges" has
the sharing of African expertise as one of its central
concerns. In this way, through the distribution of research
papers, through collective work, through exchanges of
academics from different countries and the twinning
of institutions, we shall cease to see ourselves simply
as fulfilling national roles, but be actively part of
I believe that we can take this process even further,
by recognising the strengths of various institutions
or countries in specific areas such as agriculture or
medicine, and building these so that students from one
country can study in another where this expertise is
to be found.
In this way, the basis on which we operate together
becomes that of true co-operation rather than competition
between various countries and institutions to attract
students. There is no reason why students themselves
should not be exposed to studying in other countries,
in this way developing a continental consciousness of
By focusing on successful African experiences in handling
issues of access, quality and capacity building in our
education systems, the work of the ADEA represents a
necessary contribution to African development.
The African child must no longer be subjected to the
mental domination that Ngugi has spoken about. We are
liberating ourselves and now reside in mental universes
of our own making, for our own progress and prosperity.
Since our common concern is to complete the process
of liberation by building a caring, humane African society,
by bringing about sustained economic development, your
contribution in ensuring our self-development is crucial
if we are to succeed in our endeavour.
It is with pleasure therefore that I open this ADEA
biennial meeting as well as the EFA-2000 (Ministers
of Education in Africa) sub-Saharan conference that
is being held at the same time.
Over the next few days, as ministers, agencies, professionals
and researchers gathered here, you will put your heads
together and come with ways in which to deepen our effectiveness
and strengthen our partnerships.
I wish you well in your deliberations.
I thank you.