Unpacking the human mind

Unpacking the human mind

ROMA- Dr Ilongo Fritz Ngale, a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), is pushing for a radical shake-up of Lesotho’s education system. He argues that the western colonial powers that took over the continent in the 1800s introduced an education system that was designed specifically to train blacks who would sustain their colonialist agendas.
In other words, the colonial education system was never designed to empower the blackman.

He argues that blacks were educated so that they would not interrogate the colonial status quo but to become useful appendages of the colonial system. It was an education system that was designed to ensure that blacks served the colonial set-up as mere domestic servants, clerks, teachers and priests to prop up the status quo without questioning.

It was a plan that was executed throughout Africa with almost military precision.
“The agenda of the colonial masters was not to develop our African potential but to make us conform to the colonial pattern and serve the colonial agenda,” he says.

Yet, instead of dismantling this colonial education system at independence in the early 1960s, most African governments left it firmly intact.
“The problem is that we have continued with the colonial education set-up even after independence, replicating the old colonialist system.”
The results have not been pleasant over the years as seen from the massive drop-out rates, the mass unemployment and the huge numbers of under-employed and unemployable youths in Africa, he says.

“Our education systems are failing woefully,” he says.
Dr Ngale says unless Africa adopts a new radical thinking on education, we will not be able to break free from this vicious circle.
“We have to go back to the root of education, to bring out the unique potentials in every individual child,” he says.

The current process, which he says is fundamentally flawed, has concentrated on molding the mind of the African child without looking at his or her unique potential, their intelligence, values, interests, personality and learning styles.
He argues that educationists in Africa do not identify the child’s potential but that all learners are simply lumped in one class as part of a general education with no regard for the students’ unique abilities.

That has unfortunately led some educationists to quickly condemn some students as dull when they could excel in other disciplines such as sport, creative art and music. “We must stop the general education and focus on specialised education where people are grouped according to their intelligence, values, interests, personalities and learning styles.”

Dr Ngale says once a child’s potential has been identified, he or she must be encouraged to pursue such specialised education with the goal of making them self-employed.

“We must encourage self-employment and stop this thinking that graduates must look for jobs after school.”
It is a thinking that he says is slowly gaining traction within academic circles.

Dr Ngale, who holds a PhD in Psychology of Education from the University of the Free State, says psychology is “the mother of all subject matters”.
“Without a basis in psychology you will not understand the motivation for certain behaviours and you will not be able to change the thinking and behaviours which are negative,” he says.

“Without a profound understanding of psychology and the application of the principles of psychology all attempts to reform society will fail woefully.”
It is an eloquent defence of a discipline some critics have said is of little use in Lesotho given the country’s major developmental challenges.
Dr Ngale says psychology is at the centre of trying to understand how the human mind functions.

“It is a lens through which our worldview is sustained to recognize, orgnanise, and interpret the world, nature and society,” he says.
“Psychology helps us understand how people process information. Without an understanding of psychology you cannot change human behaviour. No matter how much money you put into NGOs to fight HIV, for instance, that will not lead to a change in behavior unless there is a transformation of peoples’ mindsets.”

He argues that the same approach applies in all fields such as education, politics, religion, and health. Dr Ngale says while poor governance, extreme poverty and disease continue to ravage Africa, he remains confident that the continent will rise to be a major force in world affairs in the near future.

He blames colonialism for Africa’s underdevelopment. Dr Ngale says the biggest problem was that “we assimilated both positive and negative aspects of western culture” and neglected the positive aspects of our African culture.

Western education played a major role in undermining our own African cultures, he argues. To reverse Africa’s under-development, Dr Ngale argues there is need for a collective undertaking by all Africans to rally behind the idea of a United States of Africa.

“We must be audacious enough to go for the idea of a United States of Africa. We are not being unrealistic in pushing such an idea,” he says.
“We already have the ideological framework in the form of the African Union. What remains is the issue of implementation of the ideals and policies.”
But is that not an ideal which is impossible to implement at the grassroots level given the xenophobia we have experienced in South Africa?
Dr Ngale insists that Africans can work together at the cultural and economic levels to create a body that “transcends our tribal, ethnic and nationalistic divides”.

While his intellectual forte remains the psychology of education, Dr Ngale also maintains a healthy interest in the literary arts.
As a creative writer, he has written many poems in anthologies. He has also written short stories and two major works in prose, The Four Pillars of Time and The Lost Keys of Kafira. He is also the author of an Introduction to Psychology and Counselling – A Guide For Students, Teachers and Professionals which was published last year.

Perhaps his best creative work in Lesotho is the panegyric poem, Christ On the Roof of Africa, poeticizing 150 years of Roman Catholicism in Lesotho.
Scholars says the work is unique in being the first attempt to use poetry to relate the history of the Catholic Church in Lesotho.
Dr Ngale, a devout Catholic, says literature is one way of presenting a slice of reality.
“The creative mode of self-expression is fundamentally African. My interest in writing is to touch the spirit of other Africans and raise awareness on certain issues,” he says.

His literary themes touch on subjects such as poverty, education, culture and man’s existential issues. “I am concerned with such issues such as who am I, where am I from, why am I here and where am I going,” he says. He says as Africans, “we believe there is life beyond life and that the dead are not dead”. “Our ancestors are considered to be our guides in life and it is through their inspiration that we can move forward so that we attain our highest levels of development.”

He believes in the integration of the positive thoughts of one’s own traditional culture with the positive elements of foreign cultures.
Yet in spite of the paucity of leadership on the continent that has bequeathed a legacy of poverty and mis-governance, Dr Ngale is measured in his assessment of the current crop of leaders in Africa.

In fact, he refuses to condemn them saying they too are victims of systems and circumstances which they did not create.
“The leaders are victims of circumstances and are products of systems that are more powerful than them,” he says.
Instead of condemning these leaders, Dr Ngale argues we “must assist them with creative ideas” so that they tackle the challenges of under-development. “It is the responsibility of all Africans to do so. We must stop pointing fingers.”

Staff Reporter

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