Dr. Kofi Dompere On Nkrumah’s Scientific Thinking 13

Sat, 28 Mar 2015 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

KWAME NKRUMAH: “If you cannot remain where you are, you cannot fall back. You must advance!”

Continuing from the rhetorical question we posed in Part 12 of the series, could we again ask, perchance, that Nkrumah took after Thomas Jefferson and Bill Clinton than after Danquah and Busia? The long and short of it is, it takes a great human being like Nkrumah with deep scientific, philosophic, cultural, and intellectual convictions to see and appreciate the physicalness of human differentiation as a natural process of biologic causation, rather than of the doing of mortal intervention and calculation. The fact is that the deeper wells of Nkrumah’s scientific thinking fed his cosmopolitan view of human genetic-biologic commonality and man’s common destiny in the arms of inter-cultural socialization, of economic relations.

But the masses, even including highly educated ones like Busia and Danquah, fell way behind Nkrumah’s advanced thinking, intellectual and political originality. Unfortunately, blind imitation of negative foreign ideas, inclusive of the people’s continued internalization of negative memes from within and without, assumed ideological prominence in Nkrumah’s successors’ political manifestos. Danquah’s and Busia’s blind appropriation of the Edmund Burke’s political ideology for their political ends undermined their credibility before the people and the instruments of the democratic process.

It is therefore our opinion that these negative tendencies have turned into entrenched lapses, to which proper and sustained application of African originality, Nkrumahism, and practical African solutions, past and modern, can provide some form of active immunization against the social cancer of ideational retrogression, partisan political sycophancy, moral atrophy, and ideological ossification. Thus far, we have demonstrated that Nkrumah possessed a scientific conception of education that is not only profound but insightful and transformative as well. These ideas, arguably, are as profound as Howard Gardner’s “multiple intelligences,” Molefi Kete Asante’s “The Asante’s Principles for the Afrocentric Curriculum,” Paulo Freire’s “critical pedagogy,” and Edward de Bono’s “Lateral thinking.” What is the nature of Nkrumah’s “scientific” conception of education?


Gardner may subsume Nkrumah’s “scientific” conception of education under the following rubrics: Logical-Mathematical (critical and analytical thinking); Intrapersonal (understanding one’s own strengths and weaknesses); Interpersonal (gaining an understanding of other people through psychosocial interactions and contacts); Bodily-Kinesthetic (understanding body language); Linguistic (effective utilization of words to communicate ideas); and Visual-Spatial (converting one’s or others’ spatial thoughts into concrete actualities). Asante’s rubrics include the following: You and Your Community; Choice and Consequences; Society and the World; Power and Authority; Tradition and Innovation; Location in Time and Space; Wellness and Biology; Technology and Science, and so on. Clearly Nkrumah’s “scientific” conception of education points to critical pedagogy and critical thinking. Here, the point of comparative critique shows Nkrumah’s ideas enjoying scientific validation from the ideas and conclusions of other thinkers around the world.

Overtime, Nkrumah expanded upon his “scientific” conception of education as Prime Minister and President, from the seminal position he took in his 1943 essay “Education and Nationalism in Africa.” In this essay he writes: “Any educational program which fails to furnish criteria for the judgment of social, political, economic and technical progress of the people it purports to serve has completely failed in its purpose and has become an educational fraud.” It is important that Nkrumah made critical, analytic thinking or scientific thinking, not religion or deities or proselytization, the focal point of his theory and critique of education. This signals a sharp gradient ascent in his thinking since his student days insofar as his assessment of the theories and critiques of education are concerned.

But Nkrumah’s reference to “technical” and “social, political, economic” in his critique of education theory demonstrates a commitment to a humanistic and technocratic education. Technocratic education has two major components: Science and technology. The meaning of humanistic education is self-evident: The study of the arts, languages, philosophy, history, etc. Nkrumah’s provision of leadership to the founding of the American and Canadian branches of the African Students Association and of the African Studies Association in particular, for instance, cements his commitment to bringing men and women together to advance the study of Africa, among others.

That aside, the basis of industrial economies derives from this simple fact: The creative interactions among people, society, economic development, social solidarity, and humanistic-cum-technocratic education! Nkrumah’s speech to the delegates of the 1st International Congress of Africanists in particular, and his other major speeches such as the “The African Genius,” “Flower of Learning (1) and “Flower of Learning (2),” “The Role of Our Universities,” “Strength and Power” and the one inaugurating the Ghana Nuclear Reactor Project (which led to the creation of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission and the Atomic Energy Facility) underlined his overriding commitment to the execution of humanistic education and technocratic education and their [the latter two] far-reaching implications for economic development, building an industrial economy, and improving the quality of life of the people (see also Samuel Obeng’s five-volume set “Selected Speeches of Kwame Nkrumah”).

In America Nkrumah provided leadership in establishing the Institute of African Languages and Culture (University of Pennsylvania). In Ghana he did the same in connection with the Institute of African Studies and the conceptualization of the Encyclopedia Africana. Regarding science and technology, Nkrumah’s leadership led to the creation of the University of Science and Technology (KNUST), the Academy of Sciences, the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, and a number of research establishments. He also proposed the “Science City” to house what he called the “Palace of Science.” He intended the latter to house a “whole range of laboratories and other facilities” and the former “a number of research institutes and be a center where the Academy would undertake pilot industries based on its discoveries” (see E.A. Haizel’s ‘Education in Ghana, 1951-1966).

Nkrumah conceived these grand policy targets in the context of resource mobilization, and had the following general goals for the Academy (Haizel): 1) To recommend the establishment of full scale industries, 2) To provide expert advice on the types of industrial plant to build, and 3) To undertake economic assessments in connection with the first two. In short, Nkrumah planned the “Science City” and its allied facilities, discoveries and investigations to come up with innovative ideas based on scientific consensus and consillence in the particular area of scientific and technological research and their implications for industrialization. And yet, resource mobilization implies expanding the aggregate intellectual horizons of the people beyond their mundane experiences, to the extent that the expansion touches the sun halo of political conscientization. Education is the key. Nkrumah thus made education free and compulsory. This progressive policy ensured difficult social conditions like poverty did not act as a barrier to the smooth evolution of a child’s development psychology, where education was the primary concern or motivation. Nkrumah’s version of the philosophy of education meant that individuals should be allowed free access to education, where the social statuses of parents do not distinguish between the intellect of the poor child and that of the rich one.

And not only that, Nkrumah also made sure that society through the agency of his government provided enabling environments, resources, incentives, encouragement, and equal opportunities to all individuals in hopes that they find free expressions for their self-actualizing dreams and goals. That is, to realize their full potential. This is basically what Nkrumah meant by egalitarianism, a core component of Nkrumahism. The point of egalitarianism made access to education a right, not a privilege. On the contrary, evidence exists to support the view that Danquah and Busia saw access to education as a privilege. The policies under Busia’s premiership add to the evidence. This is borne out by their ideological intoxication on the Edmund Burke’s political philosophy which, among other implications, makes privilege, unhealthy reliance on meritocracy, classism, and elitism exclusive definitions of social mobility. However, these definitions entail some elements of political bias and moral hypocrisy. Haizel writes that the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute became “anathema in 1966,” yet the establishments of the Center for Civic Education (Busia served as its Chairman), the National Commission for Democracy, and the Charter Secretariat borrowed from Nkrumah’s Ideological Institute.

Thus, a high statistical certainty existed under Nkrumah’s egalitarian priorities for gifted or talented students to showcase their intellectual prowess and to contribute to national development goals, a process that would otherwise have been impossible given the negating tendencies of poverty. It does matter that poverty has a way of burying talent and creativity. Granted, the educational policy under Nkrumah made education competitive. The underlying impetus for these revolutionary ideas is the development of an industrial economy. This defines the standpoint from which Nkrumah’s “scientific” conception of education must be understood, evaluated, and critiqued. The following words provide another insight into Nkrumah’s “scientific” conception of education: “In the modern world, it is necessary that every one of us should understand the basic principles of science and technology. It is not enough to have some people trained as scientists. Everyone must have a basic understanding of the methods and achievements of science…The purpose of the development of science and technology, the foundations of which we are now laying, is therefore, the peace, progress and welfare of our own people and peoples elsewhere in Africa and in the world” (see his speech “Opening of British Science Exhibition”).

Nkrumah’s novel idea to use a science museum (the National Science Museum) and mass communication [television, films, the radio, and the press] to promote public interest in science enriched his profile on the scientific conception of society. That is not to say his speech represented a conceptual finality to his train of scientific ideas, propositions, and dreams. There is definitely a sharp contrast between his conceptualization of science as he understood it in connection with the “Science City” and the “Palace of Science” on the one hand and on the other hand, what we see in the preceding paragraph. While in the preceding paragraph he conceptualized the utility of science as a model for public consumption at the level of the most fundamental of practical scientific ideas, in the “Science City” and the “Palace of Science” case he expanded upon that narrow or atomist view of science and made it [science] the centerpiece of human existence.

Readers may want to take another close look at Nkrumah’s “Laying the Foundation Stone of Ghana’s Atomic Reactor” and his accompanying speech “Socialism Without Science Is Void” to appreciate his deep understanding of science and its potentiality for solving human problems. He understood the potential of atomic energy for industrial development; understood how ionizing radiation and radiochemistry affected the properties of materials; understood the potential of radioisotope techniques to lead to a better understanding of plant health in the presence of insect pests and antagonistic weeds, plant fertilizer uptake under local conditions, as well as producing better meat and crop by inducing changes in their genetic makeup. Nkrumah also tasked Ghanaian scientists and others to work on the Nuclear Reactor to expand their research activities to cover solar energy. His “Socialism Without Science Is Void” Speech which he delivered in Kwabenya on November 25, 1964 clearly spelt out these goals. In this speech Nkrumah said: “Many issues can only be resolved on the basis of scientific and technical knowledge.” His vision and dream represented the theory part of his scientific thinking. On the practical side he provided leadership, morale, incentives, facilities, and resources; put together men and women of science to work on the project; gave scholarships to Ghanaians to study abroad with a view to returning and continuing from where the expatriate scientists left off; and brought the society behind him on the legitimacy and relevance of the project to Ghana’s and Africa’s industrial advancement. This is similar to what President John F. Kennedy did for America’s Space Program. Nkrumah’s peers who laid down the industrial foundations for the so-called Asian Tigers also pursued similar goals.

The American-based Nkrumah scholar Dr. Zizwe Poe puts it better: “He [Nkrumah] saw knowledge as a conditioner of purposeful practice…Nkrumah advocated education for a knowledge that led to human service and liberation. He also advocated a cultural grounding for education…Afrocentric education was to serve the purpose of building an optimal power base for the African Revolution, which was, in turn, to improve the lives of Africans in particular and humanity in general. By developing the intellectual and technical awareness of the youth, future generations were guaranteed. By ensuring a healthy presentation of the people’s deep history, a general sense of awareness was awakened” (see “Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, A Lincoln University Alumnus: His Profound Impact on Pan-African Agency”). Also, the American-based international think tank Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies, the African Union Kwame Nkrumah Science Awards, and the Biennial Kwame Nkrumah International Conference generally devote their researches and scientific investigations to Nkrumah’s larger vision for improving the quality of human life and to his policy ideals on development economics, both components of Nkrumahism.

We argue that this policy assessment, theory and criticism of education needs appropriating across Africa, for it remains a standing question policy makers, educational reformers, researchers, and educational institutions have not sufficiently looked into as a focus of serious policy reform. Nkrumah’s ideas continue to gain widespread currency in academic research nonetheless. Paulo Freire, the famous Brazilian philosopher and educator, contributed to the theoretical development of critical pedagogy, and together with Nkrumah’s consciencism theory, African-centered methodology, and concepts of African Personality, nationalism and Pan-Africanism, Nkrumahism in short, the old idea of “education” as we know it now finds a new critical voice in the province of scientific and philosophical speculation. It cannot be gainsaid that applied knowledge, critical pedagogy, and critical, analytic thinking took on a universal investiture of educational reform when Nkrumah and the CPP government assumed the reins of national affairs from the British Colonial Government. Simply put, leaders in the academic field of post-colonial theory have acknowledged both scholars’ [Nkrumah’s and Freire’s] contributions to the field’s development.

We therefore assert that Nkrumahism, more than the present dispensation of kakistocracy and of political cluelessness, is the answer to Africa’s continued retrogression and developmental crisis. We make this statement as a point of comparative departure from the so-called Asian Tigers and the industrialized West. Moreover, we choose Nkrumahism over all other available choices because it is scientific, logical, and mathematical and because its practical worth as a development tool, inquest of self-determination, development economics, inter-ethnic socialization, and race relations has been more than validated in a number of instances and situations, theoretical and otherwise! To the extent that Ghana exists today and that colonialism in Africa has become a thing of the past, we cannot but appreciate the transformative power of Nkrumahism and Nkrumah’s scientific thinking.

It is also quite true that much remains to be done in order to bring Africa to the level Nkrumah planned it, hence the timely scientific intervention of Prof. Dompere’s work. Nkrumahism was developed, in part, to conscientize Africans or to open their eyes to the wide possibilities of creative productions, to the actualities of self-determination, to the practice of collective self-actualization, to Africa’s positive engagement with the world, and to the scientific and technological advancement of the African continent. Against this background, Nkrumah chose to execute his “scientific” de-colonization of the continent via quality mass education; but his reading of Sir Valentine Chirol’s influential book “Indian Unrest” reinforced his suspicions about Britain’s true commitment to higher education in their African colonies. This was at a time when he had not developed the scientific and philosophic potentialities of Nkrumahism as a guiding principle for Africa’s decolonization. It would come much later as the compass of his scientific understanding of the world expanded in leaps and bounds.

On the preceding policy matter on British colonial educational politics, Nkrumah writes: “Sir Valentine Chirol in his book ‘India Unrest’ has endeavored to show that this policy of educational adaptation is inevitably and eventually going to produce discontent and sedition?desire for self-determination and independence. HE [Chirol] WARNED THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT THAT THE INTRODUCTION OF A SIMILAR SYSTEM OF EDUCATION INTO AFRICA WOULD LEAD TO SIMILAR RESULTS. IN OTHER WORDS, HIGHER EDUCATION IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH COLONIAL STATUS” (our emphasis; see “Education and Nationalism in Africa”). In this thoughtful article written as far back as 1943, Nkrumah seemed to indicate his preference for universal quality education and Adult Education (andragogy) for Ghanaians (and Africans).

He [Nkrumah] also appeared to hint at free education. These conclusions came against the backdrop of Nkrumah’s study and assessment of educational systems around the world as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. His aim was to bring the amalgam of the best in the educational systems of Asia and the West (Western Europe, America) and the best in African traditions and ideas, a throwback to his “philosophical conversion.” Similarly, Ngugi wa Thiong’o in his work “Something Torn and New: An African Renaissance” shows a British plan, a pilot project if you will, to use missionaries to execute the colonization of Ireland and lord over it [Ireland]. Once the colonization strategy became successful the British then deployed it across Africa. In other words, Thiong’o is saying the West used missionaries (and Chrsitianity) to break the resolve of Africans against hegemony and to make the African mind malleable to physical colonization.

Africa has not fully recovered from this missionary enterprise, and therefore African psychology continues to remain a subject of and prisoner to this seeming immortal legacy. Not even her educated sons and daughters have managed to completely shake off the yoke of psychological and cultural dislocation. Some like Nkrumah walked through the conflagration of this seeming immortal colonial legacy unscathed. The likes of Danquah, Busia, and Obetsebi-Lamptey were not that fortunate; they largely became prisoners to the scourge of colonial education and to any bad thing associated with colonialism! This became evident in their terrorist and violent approach to seeking redress for their grievances already rejected by the masses, without their having recourse to alternative paradigms of compromise, consensus, and trade-offs. Their intellectual addiction to the Edmund Burke’s political ideology simply forbade engagement with public consciousness and popular sovereignty. Thus, the Edmund Burke’s political ideology became the source of subvention, terrorism and violence, bitterness, and political destabilization of Ghana. This same political ideology undermined the dominant features of African cultural ethos on the principle of collective bargaining in society’s interest, internal peace, and brotherhood. Nkrumah’s scientific thinking as projected through categorical conversion, consciencism, and philosophical consciencism clashed with the creeping dictatorship of Edmund Burke’s political ideology.

It is, however, important to emphasize that though Nkrumah was a royal too he did not allow it [royalty] to go to his head in the way that Busia and Danquah did with the Edmund Burke’s political ideology. It all boiled down to Nkrumah’s scientific conception of society and of education, and his African-centered way of looking at human relations, group dynamics, statecraft, and power relations. He was a free man in body, soul, spirit and mind, unlike the radical ideologues of Edmund Burke. Busia explained his dilemmatic entrapment in the dragnet of colonial education as follows: “At the end of my first year at secondary school [Mfantsipim, Cape Coast], I went home to Wenchi for the Christmas vacation. I had not been home for four years, and on that visit, I became painfully aware of my isolation. I understood our community far less than the boys of my own age who had never been to school. Over the years, as I went through college and university, I FELT INCREASINGLY THAT THE EDUCATION I RECEIVED TAUGHT ME MORE AND MORE ABOUT EUROPE AND LESS THAN MY OWN SOCIETY” (our emphasis; see Walter Rodney). On the other hand we may forgive Busia for acknowledging the anomaly of colonial education in his personality development as a youth. But Busia also told African-America writer in an interview that “I AM A WESTERNER…I WAS EDUCATED IN THE WEST.” Also, according to Oppeinheimer and Fitch, Busia revealed to the London Times that “OXFORD HAD MADE ME WHAT I AM TODAY. I HAVE HAD ELEVEN YEARS OF CONTACT WITH IT AND NOW CONSIDER MY SECOND HOME” (our emphasis; see “Ghana: End of an Illusion”).

Busia may be a victim of paedomorphosis; he carried his boyhood cultural and psychological dislocation into adulthood as Ghana’s Prime Minister and as a collaborator with and an advisor to the National Liberation Council! Yet our critique of Busia is not an isolated example in contemporary times or a thing of the past as the following assessment makes clear: “Basically, the metropolitan countries block African development by co-opting African leaders into an international social structure that serves the world capitalist economy. By training and conditioning the upper layer of African society into Western habits of consumption, reading, vacation, style, and other European values, the dominant politico-economic system removes the need for direct intervention and indirect colonial rule. The more the new elites ‘develop,’ the more their expectations rise, the more they become programmed to look North, to think Western, and to alienate themselves from their national society, which is locked into its underdevelopment. Since mass development is such a monumental task in the best of conditions, and since it is even more difficult against the wishes and interests of the dominant capitalists, these alienated, Westernized elites are motivated to repress the spread of development in their society and thus to maintain themselves in power as a political class. The end result is that national development is impossible: European predominance is maintained by the co-opted elites, a neocolonial pact as firm as its colonial predecessor was in its time” (see William Zartman’s “Europe and Africa: Decolonization or Dependency,” Foreign Policy, January 1976).

The problems Zartman identifies are similar to some of the research activities being carried out by the Pan-Asian think tank, the Global Institute for Tomorrow (GIFT). Chandran Nair, GIFT’s founder, has examined aspects of these questions from the perspective of Asia in his work “Consumptionomics: Asia’s Role in Reshaping Capitalism and Saving the Planet.” Certainly there are important overlaps with Nkrumah’s scientific conception of society and of education. Thus, Nkrumah wanted to give Ghana and Africa a “scientific” and practical conception of education devoid of the kind of colonial education designed for the purpose of sustaining the colonial enterprise, psychologically driving learners away from their social-cultural environments, keeping the colonial subject in his place, and making Africans mere blind copyists and lazy amanuenses for transcribing negative external acculturation models. To that extent his [Nkrumah’s] remark “If education is life, then the weakness of the school system in Africa is evident…Any system of education worth its salt should be made consistent with the changing needs of the community in which the individual personality finds expression” is apt! This assessment clearly speaks to the dilemma and challenges Africa faces today. And it also constitutes a vista across his grasp of the sociology of education and what he indented to do with it in harmonizing education, social justice, and economic development.

However this view of blind copying, essentially, gets caught up in the dragnet of one of Attoh Ahuma’s gnomic wisecracks. He writes: “What the white man eats, he [African] eats; what he drinks and smokes, he [African] drinks and smokes, thereby securing what, in his deluded opinion, is considered the hallmark of respectability, civilization and refinements.” Kobina Sekyi’s play “The Blinkards” dramatizes this dilemma of psychological dislocation and intellectual confusions. Prof. Dompere extends Ahuma’s observation: “These are done without asking a simple question whether they are good for him, his offspring and fellow Africans. Unproductive imitation is developed to a fine art of imbecility. When a European calls an African freedom fighter a terrorist, other Africans also call the same freedom fighter a terrorist. When the Ghanaian makes money in Ghana, he or she takes it to the desert lands of the West that historically have nothing to give Ghana except racial insults, humiliation of the leaders and a mockery of the masses.”

Prof. Dompere adds: “It is operating in the same zone of cognitive imbecility that moved a number of Ghanaians to accuse Kwame Nkrumah’s government of shortages of milk and sardines without considering the benefits of social infrastructure such as free water supply, free education and development of free health service system which Nkrumah was putting in place to support the building of Ghana.” Indeed “cognitive imbecility” has become the postmodernist face of post-Nkrumah politics. This measured critique of uncritical imitation on the part of Africa makes a beeline for the dangers of unconstructive intellectual independence, a powerful moral statement on the state of Africa’s intellectual and cultural dislocation. “This national stupidity,” Prof. Dompere continues, “the selling of our people into a new slavery and the acceptance of imperialist deceptions find expression in the fact that thinking in our contemporary Ghana and by logical extension, all Africa, has become a lost art, a casualty of colonial education that has forced the leadership to operate in the zone of cognitive imbecility and the masses to function in the zone of global ignorance and confusion.”

In the end, Ahuma’s and Prof. Dompere’s diagnosis of “the African Condition,” to borrow Ali Mazrui’s phraseology, has become a chronic politico-intellectual disease which generations of scholars and politicians have tried unsuccessfully to reverse, curtail or extirpate (see Mazrui’s “The African Condition: A Political Diagnosis”).

We shall return…

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis