This essay seeks to understand how scholars have understood the relevance of scholarly knowledge through an analysis of education policy and curriculum for “underdeveloped,” vulnerable communities. How have perceptions about the knowledge important for African communities been shaped, delimited, critiqued and transfigured over time, especially by leaders and scholars during the shift from colonial rule to postcolonial independence. I draw on critical post-colonial scholarship derived from the experiences of former British colonies, especially focused on work on and emerging out of my fieldsite--Kenya--in order to examine how the history of colonialism, structural adjustment programs, and more recently, the advent of technology entrepreneurship have shaped expectations of and investments into the “African” university, and imaginaries of what science and technology can do for socioeconomic development. How have perceptions of the ethical and moral dimensions of investing in science and technology training and capacity building in the global South shifted across over time from the 1960s onwards?
This essay foregrounds key works and debates within African Studies, Postcolonial Studies, and Development Studies related to higher education in Africa. A secondary essay (found here) foregrounds insights from my ongoing analysis of these works.
In highlighting various moments where certain stakeholders have been particularly powerful in shaping educational objectives in Africa, I do not intend to suggest a teleological narrative nor am I arguing that these are the only organizations that have shaped African educational policy. Rather, by drawing these varying literatures, debates, and historical time periods together into the same frame, I desire to open up productive spaces for further discussion about the “education crisis” in Africa and the varied proposed solutions.
In line with seeking to open up further, collaborative lines of inquiry, I have utilized the PECE essay form. (Learn more about PECE and its origins as a qualitative research project and infrastructure in this video artifact here.) This is an experiment in a mode of scholarly production. By foregrounding and archiving the works themselves and various found artifacts, I invite readers to draw out their own take on the materials. The development of an analytic stucture (here) establishes a shared set of questions with which readers/contributors will be able to query the works. The aim of these analytics is not to overdetermine how such encounters play out but rather to lightly structure and set the stage for collaborative encounters. In setting up these reading/contributing infrastructures, I hope to enable multiple readings and varying (possibly divergent) insights which I believe enrich the overall knowledge production process. I welcome any feedback and comments at aokune[at]uci[dot]edu.
Angela Okune: This document submitted to Professor Kavita in April 2018 as part of the HIST 290 course at UC Irvine provides a sense of my original intention behind the framing of the problem space as well as a comprehensive initial reading list, from which a handful have made it into this PECE...Read more
Angela Okune: This 2015 article by Hebe Vessuri explores how powerful institutions such as universities, disciplines, states, and social movements work towards defining the principles by which to determine which knowledge holders should be included within social science.Read more
Angela Okune: This 2002 article by Hebe Vessuri decries the faith increasingly granted to the instrumental rationality of technoscience even within social sciences. Vessuri notes the greater development of interrogations about what research is for and for whom (relevance).Read more
Angela Okune: This 2005 article by Clive Whitehead situates the British colonial education policy towards Africa in the context of the rest of the British empire, especially India.Read more
Angela Okune: This 1993 volume is a comparative analysis of racial attitudes in the formal schooling of both Britain and its former dominions and colonies. The contributions include chapters looking at experiences in South Africa, Uganda and Kenya. A central theme throughout the work is that a...Read more
Angela Okune: This 1983 paper by Stephen Ball raised three important points regarding the role that British colonial education policies played in African development. He highlighted the demand for education by local Africans; that the history of colonial schooling is marked by the...Read more
Angela Okune: In this 2005 article, Frances Vavrus discusses how access to secondary education declined in Tanzania as school fees were introduced and subsidized prices for food were removed during the advent of the IMF structural adjustment programs (SAPs).Read more
Angela Okune: This 2004 article by Damtew Teferra and Philip Altbachl focuses on the "problems of African higher education" which they see as including the challenges of funding, management, brain drain and language. The authors propose that recognition of these problems can lead to major...Read more
Andah (1995) has complained that while there is the problem of adequate funding, much more important is the establishment of the “right (truly African) cultural perspective as the basis for training all students—Africans and non-Africans who genuinely want to understand Africa as against wanting to impose their own cultural purview on African peoples and materials” (157). This highlights a long-standing question regarding what a “truly African” perspective entails. Debates about decentering Western pedagogy have included proposals for ways to "decolonize the university" including a more "Afro-centric" education (also known by the name: "culturally relevant pedagogy") and land education. This section outlines some of the contributions to the question of what alternatives to a white, colonial settler model of education might look like.
Angela Okune: This 2018 blog post by Ngugi wa Thiong'o's son, Mukoma articulates the continued relevance of the book. Borrowing literary critic Adam Beach's notion of an "English metaphysical empire," Mukoma highlights how English continues to be a marker of intelligence and class in Kenya (and...Read more
Angela Okune: This 2012 paper by Francis Nyamnjoh argues that education in Africa is based on a resilient colonial and colonizing epistemology, which takes the form of science as ideology and hegemony. This type of education is justified as necessary to keep Africans internationally...Read more
Angela Okune: In this 2008 paper, Njoki Nathani Wane examines anti-colonial discourses as articulated by scholars in the 1960s and (re)taken up in the 21st century.Read more
Angela Okune: This 2001 article by George Sefa Dei and Alireza Asgharzadeh introduces an "anti-colonial discourse" as a guiding framework for partnerships among anti-oppression activists in the academy and beyond it.Read more
Angela Okune: This 2000 article by George Sefa Dei invites discussion about the definition and operationalization of "indigenous knowledge" and how it is used/taken up in the Western academy.Read more
This section elaborates on threads from earlier sections looking at the expansion of the university in terms of market value. As the university increasingly fills a role of supporting corporate competitiveness and training future laborers of a global, knowledge-based economy, scholars such as Slaughter and Rhoades (2004) have argued that the fundamental social roles of public higher education to provide increased upward mobility for underserved populations have been displaced by the economic role of serving corporations’ global competitiveness. This section includes critical university scholars who have taken issue with how modes of power within the university structures are exercised upon the daily lives of minoritized subjects and knowledges, noting new configurations of power marked by acknowledgement and sometimes even valorization of minoritized subjects and knowledges (Ferguson 2012). Many of these works look at higher education in the United States and hold lessons and insights for the university system beyond the US borders. As Simpson (1998) highlights, university-based development studies and projects predicted and required worldwide triumph of modernity and contemporary forms of global capitalism. Much of this work highlights the continued battle over what types of questions may be asked (both from within and from outside the academy) and whose results taken as legitimate and responsible.
Angela Okune: This 2007 book chapter by Georg Krucken, Anna Kosmutzky and Marc Torka expands on the concept of the "multiversity" and look at some theoretical approaches for understanding the contemporary university; emphasize the role state regulation and new forms of governance play in the...Read more
Angela Okune: This call for participants (received via email on May 29, 2018) to a half-day discussion in San Francisco as part of a regularly occuring "Technology Salon" centers on the question of how Silicon Valley can improve online learning in "emerging economies." The framing of the event...Read more
Angela Okune: This 2016 article by Heather Roberts-Mahoney, Alexander Means and Mark Garrison conducts a content analysis of US Department of Education reports, personalized learning advocacy white papers, and published research monographs in order to detail how big data and adaptive...Read more
Angela Okune: This 2016 paper by Ben Williamson traces the emergence of four prototypical ‘silicon startup schools’ as exemplars of a technocratic mode of corporatized education reform. Williamson highlights how these "startup schools" originate in the culture, discourse and ideals of...Read more
Over fifteen years ago, the authors of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) agreed upon a text outlining the importance of Open Access to scholarly materials. They asserted: “By “Open Access" to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.” Since the text was published in 2002, the idea of Open Access has taken root and spread widely around the world.
In this final section of the essay, I include work looking at the notion of "openness" as it relates to scholarly knowledge and infrastructures. The concept of openness has been increasingly taken up by development agencies and funders including the same tech philanthropists mentioned earlier in the essay (e.g. Gates Foundation). The concept of openness and how it is leveraged by different agents working in technology, development and research in Africa is of relevant for my dissertation project.
Over the last few years, a body of literature has been growing that notes that while increasing access is an important start, it may not be enough. For example, mobile for development (M4D) researcher and practitioner, Jonathan Donner published a book entitled “After Access” (2015) highlighting that while the boom in mobile phone coverage around the world has improved access to the Internet, it has brought about new forms of digital stratification. In other words, power inequalities continue, even in an “after access” world where more people have access to the Internet (and other online resources). Donner debunks the proposition that the “digital divide” has been closed because more people have mobile devices. Rather, as Donner highlights, mobile access has brought about both new spatial-temporal potentialities as well as new forms of digital stratifications.
Another strand of growing critical work raises concerns that Open Access is increasingly being co-opted by multinational publishing companies like Elsevier and Sage for private profit. Posada and Chen (2017) argue that as big publishers move towards openness they have also been redirecting their business strategies towards the acquisition of scholarly infrastructure as part of processes of profit maximization. They provocatively ask if our attention on the access paywall has distracted scholar activists from paying attention to the strategic takeover of infrastructure by the publishers. This work is important to consider as we think about what the implications might be for the African university (and the university systems more broadly).
Angela Okune: This 2017 blog post by Alejandro Posada and George Chen was received with great surprise and shock by many activist scholars who did not realize how academic publishing companies' business strategies have leveraged the increasing widespread uptake and investment into Open Access...Read more
Angela Okune: In November 2017, Gates Foundation launched its open research publishing platform. This email announcement highlights how Gates Foundation seeks to "enable researchers to take control of the publishing process without barriers" by making work funded by the foundation...Read more
Angela Okune: This 2017 paper by Brooke Erin Duffy and Jefferson Pooley looks at branding of academics and why Academia.edu has had astonishing uptake. The author argues that Academia.edu reflects and amplifies the self-branding imperatives that many academics experience. The paper highlights...Read more
Angela Okune: This 2015 paper by Lariviere et al. analyzes the consolidation of the scientific publishing industry to assess the share of scientific output published in the journals of these major publishers as well as its evolution over time and across various disciplines. The authors...Read more