Posted by Webby on 8/5/2004 9:27:54 PM
By A Esu And A Junaid
Education has been a means of transmitting one's culture from one generation to another. It is the process of bringing about a relatively permanent change in human behaviour. As the oldest industry, it is the main instrument used by society to preserve, maintain and upgrade its social equilibrium. A society's future depends largely on the quality of its citizen's education.
In all human societies, education is meant to pass on to the new generations the existing knowl edge of their physical environment, to introduce individuals to the organisation of society, give them skills for performing their daily jobs and enjoying their leisure, as well as inculcate sound morals in them for their own benefit and that of the society. In other words, education is a process by which the society assists the younger generation to under stand the heritage of their past, participate produc tively in the society of the present as well as contribute to the future. Based on these reasons, education draws inspiration and nourishment from a society, but in turn, it contributes to the growth, renewal and development of that society.
Sometimes rather informal, society has ways of assisting the younger generations to understand the past and often exposing them to the various val ues, ideals, and aspirations of the society. They may be either formal/western or informal/tradition al/indigenous.
Educational systems existed in African soci eties prior to the coming of the Europeans. Such education was for the induction of members of the society into activities and mode of thought that were considered worthwhile. African societies, were noted for their rich cultural heritage which was pre served and transmitted from generation to genera tion through a system of traditional education.
This system is variously referred to as indigenous, pre colonial or informal or tribal or community-based education in Africa. Even though there were in most cases no schools and professional teachers, there were cer tain centres for initiation and adult members of soci ety served as teachers. Such a traditional system of trainina lacked the modern classroom settino under the guidance of teachers. It was charac terised by absence of students/pupils with uniforms, regimentation and permanent teachers.
It was essentially practical training designed to enable the individual to play a useful role in society. The philosophy of traditional education was very pragmatic and was designed to form a gate way to the life of the society. It was based on the philosophy of functionalisrn and productivity. Although there were few theoretical abstractions, the main objective was to inculcate a sense of social responsibility of the community to individuals to become contributing members of the society. One of the main features of traditional African edu cation was the apprenticeship mode of learning whereby people learned under masters.
Thus, traditional education, is the process by which every society attempts to preserve and upgrade the accu mulated knowledge, skills and attitudes in its cultur al setting and heritage to foster continuously the well being of mankind. The content of the curriculum of traditional edu : cation was very comprehensive and based on the philosophy underlying the various job responsibili ties in society.
The curriculum, though not documented, was very elaborate embracing all aspects of human development. These ranged from mental broadening, physical fitness, moral uprightness, religious deference to good social adjustment and interaction. Both children and adolescents took part in such activities as wrestling, dancing, drum ming and acrobatic displays. There was emphasis on mastery learning, which also features in contem porary educational process. Individual training included the learning of certain virtues such as honesty, respect for other peoples' property and rights, and the dignity of manual labour. Hardwork, productivity, self reliance and collective orientation towards the maintenance of the existing social order were emphasised.
In respect to vocation, children were taught farming, fishing, weaving, cooking, hunting, carving, knitting, building of houses, mat-making and forging local farm implements. Different societal issues constituted political traditional education. For example, young ones were taught rules and regulations governing family, village and the individual, relationship between members of society and villages. Intellectual training included the study of local history, legends, poetry, reasoning, riddles and proverbs. Those who excelled in these areas were highly revered in the society as their expertise was of immense benefit to their society. An individual's intellect in these directions was developed to enable him fit into such professional groups as rain makers, herbalists, hunters, cult leaders and priests.
The main method of teaching in the traditional education system was learning by doing and story telling which was employed effectively in teaching local history to the young ones. The process of inculcating indepth knowledge and understanding of the ethics and principles of traditional medicine, carpentry, sorcery, or cultism was restricted to cer tain families and training for these was done through apprenticeship system. Practical objects were handled by the learners during the course of their training. Assessment of learners' performances was on a continuous basis (an idea that is being revisited in contemporary educational system today). A practi cal test relevant to the learners' experiences and level of development was the final examination.
It is important to note that most of the features of African traditional education system are prominent in the contemporary educational system. For example, people who studied certain trades or vocations spent a specified period of time and at graduation through a ceremony were given either tools or materials to start their own trades.
It seems that the idea of specified period of training, award ing of degrees or diplomas or certificate and convo cation ceremony is derived from the traditional system of education. How to meet the needs of African society in current parlance was a major concern of traditional African education (Obebe 1993). Education was functional and relevant to social life or realities of the community.
Equal opportunities were provided for adults, females, males and chil dren alike in all areas, academic, recreational, vocational, and social. Hence, there was no prob lem of unemployment as men and women were engaged in meaningful activities which they lived on. Traditional African education system was an indispensable factor for the smooth integration of the growing children into society.

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