TURNING EAST: Chinese Education good for new investments, Let’s abandon Western intellectual impunity.
BY DIKEMBE DISEMBE
Oxymorons, my specialty while I ran a column in the students press at Moi University, often ensured the use of two contrasts to make a case. We used oxymorons to get off the hook; to avoid being victimised.Â In students politics, the term â€˜democratic oligarchyâ€™ was the big oxymoron, denoting our naive attempts to change university rules, processes and â€˜thinkingâ€™ through annual students elections.
In the 80â€™s and 90’s, the era of Tito Adungosi and Karl Marx respectively, being a student leader was a big thing, for society listened when you spoke, and national politicians came seeking your input. From my reading of history of students activism, a facet of the liberation struggle often ignored, those were the times when university students flaunted ideologies-Marxism, Maoism, Communism, Capitalism and whatnot.
As Kenya under President Kenyatta turns East, in academia, a long-overdue debate should focus now on the curriculum of instruction. Would it be too much to ask that children should not be left behind?Â I raise the need to overhaul the whole instruments and media of knowledge dissemination in Kenya because it is paradoxical that a country turning to the east should continue instructing its people on a whole hell of western education system.
To achieve wholesome benefits from our Far East forays, there has to be a paradigm shift on citizensâ€™ understanding, and, appreciation of eastern ways of â€˜thinking and doingâ€™. We all know that we do not have our own system of education. We are raised in a British model which, in the end, impacts on us British ways of â€˜thinking and doingâ€™. With a new constitution which reeks of British and American undertones, and its attendant hullabaloo, how do we intend to construct in our discourse, petty or intellectual, the idea that the Chinese version of â€œdivergent viewsâ€ or â€œpolitical activismâ€ is enough to make you hanged?
When Ambassador Odembo says there are more than 400, 000 Kenyans in the USA, with unknown number in Britain, we can begin to ask ourselves just how many are we in China, especially in its numerous higher education institutions.
The â€œTurn Eastâ€ policy should be broadened and included in a compulsory curriculum. Mandarin, todayâ€™s worldâ€™s largest spoken language, should be an important component in our school system so that in 50 years to come while walking in the â€˜Xi Highwayâ€™ (this just my hypothetical superhighway connecting Murangâ€™a to Nairobi), we can eavesdrop on two Chinese planning to murder one of our remaining 175 elephants for the ivory.
Rather than dismiss the new China forays by Kenyatta II, a mistake Kenyatta I did half a century ago when he â€œTurned Westâ€ despite protestations from Jaramogi, why not strengthen these ties with meaningful overhaul of the intellectual software on which the Chinese hardware ought to rest? How do we intend to manage Eastern investments using western ideologies? Isnâ€™t this why Thika Superhighway burst its banks the other time, and by the way, Thika Superhighway is not a river, it is a 12 lane Chinese built stretching from Road Ngara in the outskirts of Nairobi to Thika Town.
When China comes, we must not use our western ideas on such environmental issues as poaching. Instead, we need the Chinese equivalents? What are the Chinese equivalent to wildlife conservation? What are the Chinese equivalent to â€œstringsâ€ attached on foreign aid? Or are our Eastern brothers only â€˜helpingâ€™ us without reciprocity?
Recently, Professor Kombo-Sure in an inaugural lecture titled Literacy, Language and Liberty: The Cultural Politics of English as Official Language in Africa, gave a chilling exegesis on Â the context and continued use of the English language as a medium of official expression. To Kombo, and unlike Ngugi and other literature scholars who see English as contributing to cultural imperialism, the use of western medium (English) for official use continue to expand. But can English use expand when all we see are dwindling fortunes of the Englishmen?
It would be interesting to fathom that we can have Â a policy shift from West to East without an accompanying shift in the mediums of instructions, among which curriculum pedagogy is key.Â To arrest this awkward scenario, one would argue that President Kenyatta ought not have ended his sojourns at the billions pledged for investments in Nairobi and other areas, but also secured entry into Chinese universities for tens of thousands of students. To undo the Mboya airlifts which anchored Western curriculum and musings with democracy, the Jubilee government, if indeed they see China as a viable and long term partner, ought to begin intentional â€œairliftsâ€ of thousands of students and other junior level government bureaucrats, to act as guinea-pigs for this great Far East experiment.
The new army of eastern trained civil servants and Jubilee Alliance rank and file; can then come home to begin systematic replacement of us-the analogues of the Western world.