Education and Religion in Africa.
The role of religion in educating the youth of Africa.
In the years before independence in Southern Rhodesia which is today Zimbabwe racial segregation was the law of the land. Practically everything was segregated, from where you lived, where you worshiped, where you went to school down to where you went to the bathroom. Black people lived at the mercy of their white colonizers.
The rural areas where I grew up did not have any government schools. There were no white children there to educate. So the government of the day saw no need to build schools for black children. These areas became fertile ground for missionaries to spread their religion. Different denominations built churches everywhere in these rural areas. Western religion soon spread all over the place. It did not matter whether one could read the bible or not, they memorized the verses and songs and prayed better than the preacher.
Here is the historical fact that intrigues me. While these missionaries were spreading western religion, western values and dismantling our customs and traditions they filled an educational void left open by the government. The churches went hand in hand with schools which provided an invaluable education to most of us. They taught math, science, English, religion, history (not necessarily the history I would have liked to learn) and a whole lot of other subjects. Children went to church on Saturday or Sunday depending upon the denomination they belonged to. They spent Monday to Friday going to school to learn. In retrospect that was not a bad partnership.
Today in my hometown of Bulawayo children spend hours in church. There are traditional church buildings, tents, churches under trees and even some closed industrial factory buildings have become churches. Meanwhile the education system has hit rock bottom. Grades at O-level, especially Math and Science are a disaster. Whatever happened to that partnership between education and religion? Can religion once again be the catalyst that propels our children to master Math and Science so that they can be the pillars of development and nation builders of tomorrow?
Ernest D. Simela, M.D.