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Modernization, a Threat to the African Culture

02.11.2018
Africa is one of the continents in the world with the most diverse culture, seen in their way of life, language, music, dress code, cuisine, religious practices, believes and values. It is this cultural diversity and uniqueness that makes the African man standout wherever he finds himself. Today, many Africans find it hard to identify with their cultural values and way of life, as a result of the clutches of modernisation and civilization.

Modernisation is a process which changes a society from a traditional economic model to an industrial one. As a result of this economic change and empowerment, the people in the society are forced to change so as to adapt to new norms and way of life. Before the colonisation of the African continent, Africans had a unique mode of life, religion and believes, cultural and social values, political, economic and education systems. Today, these cultural values are being swallowed in the wave of civilization.

EFFECTS OF MODERNISATION ON THE SOCIAL AND EDUCATIONAL ASPECTS OF THE AFRICAN CULTURE

In the social light, Africans had distinct ways of socializing. This was marked by their ways of celebrating life and death, weddings, welcoming a new born into the family, coming of age ceremonies and many others. These ceremonies where characterised by rituals, song and dance, and heavy feasting, which usually ended with anecdotes from the elderly people. Today, the younger generations are not privileged to witness these practices as some are considered barbaric and archaic, except for those still living secluded lives in typical villages, such as the pygmies.

The manner in which Africans celebrate life, death and other events have been greatly influenced by modernisation. In the past, when a child was born to an African family, the elderly women and/or priestesses in the community were invited to perform some rites and rituals for the cleansing and protection of the new-born, its mother and the entire household. The new mother was fed special herbs and meals to enable the production of breast milk to feed the baby with. The new mother and baby were then officially presented to the community after the completion of these rituals.

Today, the scenario is different. When a child is born into an African home today, the parents simply invite family members and a few friends and give them food and drinks, bypassing all the “blessings” and “rites” that were performed in the past. Those who come to see the new-born bring diapers, baby powder, toys and other accessories, instead of the traditional peace plant, cola nuts, cowries and camwood.

MODERNISATION AND AFRICAN EDUCATION

With regards to education, the African educational system was largely informal. The young once were taught by their parents and knowledge was generally passed on from one generation to another by the old. There were no classrooms or schools where they were taught mathematics or languages.  Instead, knowledge was passed on through practice. The men taught their sons how to hunt, fight, protect and fend for their families, while the women taught their daughters how to cook and care for their families. It was the responsibility of the elderly people to pass on values such as respect, courage and bravery to the younger generations. This was usually done by telling tales and stories in the open night sky, beside a large fire, where the children gathered to marvel at the tales of their grand or great grandparents.

Today, modernisation has brought a more formal and civilized system of education, with a precise curriculum. There are outstanding infrastructure and equipment used in passing on knowledge to those who are of learning age. These learners are taught how to read and write, how to carry themselves in the society and even how to speak and eat.

Unfortunately, this formalized and modern system of education has negative influences, as scandalous and unacceptable learning material and subjects are included in school curricula. A pertinent example is the case of the textbook on sex education, considered “scandalous and immoral” that was approved into the Cameroonian curriculum for form 2 students at the beginning of the 2018/2019 academic year. This book was considered inappropriate by many parents because it exposed their very young kids to vivid content that could arouse their curiosity to a negative extend. Although sex education is no longer a taboo in the African society today, Africans still believe there should be a limit to how children (especially those of tender ages) are introduced and carried through it.

Apart from improper content at some levels, modern systems of education have completely wiped out the informal ones. Young people are no longer interested in the stories and tales their grandparents have to tell and some grandparents do not even have the stories to tell. And to make things worse, not every African child has access to the new form of education as it is costly, and their parents are not financially viable.

One must say that modernisation has its good sides and has contributed a great deal in ameliorating the way of life of many Africans. It was able to bring Africa to the light, away from some of their barbaric customs and traditions, such as the killing of twins and albinos, human sacrifices for rituals, genital mutilation, and many others. It has also enhanced their way of life, improved on health care and sanitation, brought about economic development and empowerment.

Africans need to remember that their culture is their identity and personality, which make them unique in the face of the world and they should be proud of it in every way. Instead of completely letting go of our culture, we should learn to harness it with modern trends so that we can get the best of the both worlds.

AFRIC Editorial Article.

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