Toyin Fola, an African intellectual icon and Professor of History, has proposed for the study of Ifa and witchcraft as courses integrated with science and economics, which would result in degree credentials awarded by Nigerian universities.
He also advocated for the use of indigenous languages to teach and communicate with lecturers and students, regardless of their university fields of study.
Prof Falola, the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair at the University of Texas at Austin, offered these remarks during his 54th Convocation address at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Akoka on Monday. He gave a speech titled “Decolonising African Higher Education for Transformational Development.”
According to him, the African educational system, as established by colonial authorities, was not designed for enlightenment or the growth and benefit of the colonies, but rather to satisfy the colonial masters’ economic and governance aims and desires. He observed that, even after political independence, African education is still meant to sustain and advance European countries’ economic and political aims, with elites facilitating this.
He argued that as African education, both in curriculum design and administrative structures, mostly rely on Western academic standards and practices, the knowledge and information obtained from such a system would be tough to substantially develop the African continent. According to him, information, knowledge, and concepts acquired through the school system that are steeped in colonial ideology must be decolonized before a process of people-centered development that genuinely improves life can begin.
The don emphasized that while there have been several discourses and attempts in Africa aimed at decolonizing African education, such as Afrikology theory questioning Western epistemologies and methodology, the continent has yet to achieve global significance.
While referring to the National Universities Commission’s (NUC) 2004 and 2023 minimum academic benchmarks for Nigerian universities, BMAS and CCMAS, respectively, the guest lecturer stated that while both minimum benchmarks are relevant, they advance neoliberal educational standards in Nigeria. He asked NUC, as a regulating agency, to provide universities more leeway to build courses based on their unique needs.
He also asked relevant governments to compensate university personnel enough to live dignified lifestyles. He stated that it is not necessary for university staff at the same grade level to earn the same salary across the country, adding that their salaries may vary depending on the cost of living in their respective areas.
The don further requested that UNILAG explicitly run courses leading to the award of degrees in Lagoon and Sea Economies, as well as establish a center for creative economies, African vocabulary development, and an enlightenment bank. He highlighted that the decolonization of African education would undoubtedly result in significant development in Nigeria and other African countries. “And the time to scale up the process is now,” he added.
Earlier, in her welcome address, UNILAG’s vice-chancellor, Prof Folasade Ogunsola, stated that the goal of the convocation lecture was to highlight how Nigerian universities can move away from colonial orientation and perception to achieve desired sociopolitical and economic transformation, particularly for Nigeria and its people.
According to her, it is past time for Nigeria to begin thinking correctly in order to realize its full potential in all areas of life. Ogunsola emphasized that who Nigerians believe they are will define their choices and direct their collective activities in order to make Nigeria what we all want.
She stated that the current narrative about Nigeria is all about negatives, even among Nigerians. She stated that this narrative and mindsets raise severe concerns about the country’s ability to achieve genuine progress. She congratulated the convocation lecturer, Prof Falola, for accepting the responsibility, stating that he is a true African who wants to see Africa achieve higher heights on a global scale.
She described UNILAG as a brand that produces fit-for-purpose graduates, conducts cutting-edge research, and participates in relevant community initiatives. Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, former Chairman of the Governing Council of Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, presided over the event, which was attended by former Cross River State Governor Donald Duke and others.