Continuing in the shadows of colonialism: The educational experiences of the African Child in Ghana

  • Vincent Adzahlie-Mensah University of Education, Winneba, Ghana
  • Máiréad Dunne University of Sussex, United Kingdom

Abstract

In this paper, we draw on a recent ethnographic study in a rural primary school to illustrate the ways that vestiges of colonialism remain deeply imbricated in contemporary schooling in Ghana. In reference to the history of education, we use evidence from this study to argue that colonial constructions of the African child are reproduced within schooling. We highlight the significance of schooling for the production of learner subjectivities and point to the ways that the institution of schooling and its everyday life continue to echo and re-instantiate colonial constructions of the African child. Drawing on the voices and experiences of students and teachers we illustrate the ways that formal schooling continues to work to devalue indigenous knowledge, to regulate and discipline African children and produce their inferiorisation through their education. We specifically highlight the gender inflections in the institutional routines of schooling. Following a brief introduction to the historical context of education in Ghana, we outline the research study and then the theoretical position upon which our analysis is based. We develop the analysis along three major discursive themes starting with the formal institutional structures of the school, highlighting the ways its disciplinary boundaries structure age and gender relations. We then turn to the curriculum and pedagogic practices that shape student understandings of what constitutes legitimate knowledge and the processes of learning. In the final theme, we examine the language of instruction and the ways that this produces exclusions and vilifies indigenous languages and the cultures that are expressed through it. In the conclusion, we draw the key points together to reflect on the extent to which contemporary schooling in Ghana sustains the production of the African child framed in the colonial era. Finally, we suggest that the educational experience of students offers an important starting point for efforts in decolonizing the school and curriculum.

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Published
2019-04-16
Section
Articles