07.- 11.06.

P 11: Challenging the institutional bias in research on education – multiplicities of learning processes in Africa


Challenging the institutional bias in research on education - multiplicities of learning processes in Africa

Iris Clemens, General Education, University of Bayreuth
Erdmute Alber, Social Anthropology, University of Bayreuth


Short abstract:

In our interdisciplinary panel, we want to investigate learning processes in the African context in a broad sense and work out their necessary multiplicity. By stressing the relationality of any learning situation, we highlight the interwoven net of narratives, persons, artefacts, ideas, practices etc. that constitutes learning processes in Africa.


Long Abstract

Education is a continuous challenge for any society and at all times. Different times and contexts have to find their particular answer to the questions of what to learn and how to organize this process. However, due to the historical processes of colonization and, subsequently, globalization with its power formations, the global implementation of educational concepts have led to the emergence of specific educational institutions globally, which are relatively homogenous with regard to the organization of education and the contents taught. Education for all, to some extent implies oneeducation for all. Whether these educational institutions fulfil the task of creating connectivity to the given society is an open question though. Recent observations which can be summarized in buzzwords such as ‘waithood’, failed generation etc. show how debatable this question is.

In addition, beside such official institutionalized educational settings, learning takes place in multiple processes and events and might provide the learners with necessary skills, knowledge, or competencies. In our interdisciplinary panel, we want to investigate learning processes in the African context in a broad sense and work out their necessary multiplicity.  By stressing the relationality of any learning situation, we want to highlight the interwoven net of narratives, persons, artefacts, ideas, practices etc. that constitutes learning processes in Africa. Additionally, the panel seeks to open a trans-disciplinary discussion about researching learning and education in Africa.

We ask: Where does learning take place and in which settings? Who are the related institutional or non-institutional actors? How can multiplicity be grasped beyond and in relation to institutionalized learning? Which disciplinary approaches relate to these questions? We welcome empirical as well as conceptual papers that also contextualize learning processes in a globalized web of relations.


01 Anna Madeleine Ayeh: Life-long religious learning among Muslim women in Benin – the true „Education for all“?

Learning about one’s religion is a multifaceted endeavour for Muslim women in Benin: It entails scriptural knowledge about the primary sources of Islamic jurisprudence, historical knowledge about the Prophet’s life, practical skills of prayer, recitation, fasting, and the guiding principles behind these. It encompasses gendered ideas of morality that are supposed to guide wifehood, parenting, and femaleness in general. Visions of futures are engendered in processes of learning (an teaching), and often women are named responsible to raise a future generation that will live in accordance with a particular vision of Islamicity that is imagined to create a harmonious community.

Interestingly, religious learning in Muslim Benin thrives without uniformity and despite campaigns by colonial and postcolonial governments to eradicate, respectively control it. Today, the field of Islamic learning is multiple in its nature: Some learning contexts have retained their century-old ways of producing and transmitting knowledge, gathering children in the savant’s backyard to teach them the recitation of the Qur’an on wooden slates. Others have been merging Islamic learning with curricula of public schools, providing both religious and secular learning and thereby fructifying Islamic knowledge for the demands of the national job market.

From neighbourhood-based learning circles to higher education programmes – Islamic education “has it all”, and therefore reaches, in one form or another, all Muslims in Benin. Is Islamic education the true “Education for all” (cf. Millennium Development Goals, UNICEF 2015)? Drawing on empirical work with girls and women of all age groups and in different learning contexts, this paper explores the multiple learning processes that constitute Islamic learning in Benin.

Anna Madeleine Ayeh is a doctoral student in Social Anthropology at University of Bayreuth, Germany.


02 Dele Layiwola: Pedagogy, Research and the Post-colony in Africa

Understanding institutional frameworks and the set-up of society are key to understanding the present historical condition of nation states and nationalities in Africa. Indigenous populations respond to institutional stimuli set out in pedagogical processes and structures. Though history marches on, we must pay attention to diversity and alterity. In the epistemological attempt to decolonize methodologies, Linda Smith (2012), drawing on the discussions and views of other scholars like Robert young (1990); J. Abu-Lughood (1989); C. Steadman (1992) as well as from her own fieldwork among indigenous peoples collates the role of history in indigenous knowledge systems as follows:

  1. history as a totalizing discourse
  2. is there a universal history?
  3. is history one long chronological line?
  4. that history is about development and institutional evolution
  5. that history is about a self-actualization
  6. can history be told in one coherent narrative?
  7. is history as a discipline innocent and objective?
  8. Is history constructed around categories that are primary, binary or tertiary?
  9. is history largely ideological and patriarchal?

To what extent can 'literacy' as a western concept be used to gauge the development of society? These research questions will be interrogated before being used to interrogate other received concepts in the field.

The research methodology is best done within the wide scope and scale of cultural studies. The field of cultural studies has always been described as 'a non-disciplinary discipline' (Willis in Barker, 2008: xxii). Cultural studies is an elastic omnibus that interrogates the legitimacy of both the conqueror and the conquered. Hence this paper has adopted theories from cultural studies and post-colonialism for its analyses. If we understand that colonialism and conquest are based on institutional regimentation, we realise that most post-colonial societies are forced to take on the task of imposing a new framework on indigenous institutions and forms of traditional education. The intruding institution or authority insists that it be considered superior based on late arrival superior aggression theory whereby the last to arrive seeks to dominate the primal and primordial frameworks they seek to conquer and obliterate.

It will be found that today, forms of knowledge that sustained and have stood the test of time in indigenous societies are being jettisoned with newfangled discoveries that came with modernisation and modernity. For example, indigenous languages with a profound catholicity of knowledge acquisition on flora and fauna are being relegated wholesale for the language of the coloniser. A case of acquiring a tongue to lose a voice. Much of indigenous knowledge, especially of herbal remedies and healing systems are irretrievably lost.

My conclusion is that we should privilege new systems of education that will strike a balance between indigenous knowledge systems and new forms of post-colonial educational and research institutions. If these can be invented and harnessed, the privileges of holistic learning where the philosophy and knowledge systems of primordial institutions square up and support new forms of knowledge, and curriculum, to make for a more rounded and balanced development. This is when we can answer Anthony Appiah's rhetorical but critical question: 'Is the Post- in Postmodernism the Post- in Postcolonial? (1991: 336 -356).

Dele Layiwola is Professor of Performance & Cultural Studies and erstwhile  Director of African Studies at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.


03 Erdmute Alber: Behind the neo-liberal institutional setting: parents’ perspectives on childrens´ learning trajectorie

“Government has asked us to send our girls to school, but what they find there is pregnancy!” This claim of a mother verbalizes the ambivalences of West frican rural parents who  invested ressources and hope into new educational pathways of their children, but are more than often involved into serios vital conjunctures of their offspring. As generally living in different places than their parents, pupils are often seen by them as out of control and, thus, difficulty to educate. My paper deals with such ambivalences on formal learning processes from the perspective of parents who are today more than any other group carrying the financial burdens of generalized schooling have created. At the same time, they see themselves as not only having to carry the costs of schooling but also of early pregnancies, drop-outs or other turning points in their children´s lives.  Analyzing kinship based moralities of inter-general relationships from parents´perspectives, I reflect on new precarities based on generalized schooling in neo-liberal circumstances.

Erdmute Alber is professor for Social Anthropology at the University of Bayreuth, Germany.

June 8 @ 10:30
10:30 — 12:00 (1h 30')

Zoom Room 2

Erdmute Alber, Iris Clemens

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