Letter: Lessons to be learnt in Africa

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The Independent Online
Sir: Kevin Watkins is right to suggest we raise the cash to get Africa's children back into school ("The West can halt Africa's slide", 26 May); however, we have dabbled in education for Africa before. Go back to the first decade of African independence: one finds chains of admirable secondary schools and clusters of innovative universities that raised the intellectual profile and set the new cultural agendas of their respective countries. Anglo-America was not slow to respond. The promise was that a generation of liberated, informed men and women would release the potential of the continent and make a life worth living for all its citizens.

So what happened to them? Those who are not long-since dead at appallingly young ages have been swallowed up by the self-seeking corruption that is necessary for survival in the thickets of African politics. Either that, or they have got out, or been chased out, and now form part of an increasing African diaspora. Invest in Africa now, and who is to say we would not see our funds disappearing down the same drains?

We must not again superimpose a quasi-British, exam-based system that promises non-existent urban office jobs to school leavers and university graduates. We should take into account the fact that the last time we moved in with our educational cohorts, we took not one whit of notice of local cultures, with the result that although we produced young people fit to work and live in our culture, we outraged their parents, many of whom were convinced we had produced a generation of unruly, disrespectful yobs.


Hove, Sussex