Tooling is a fantastic phenomenon. It has existed as long as human. Different socio-political regimes have intentionally and unintentionally used it to reach different objectives.

A tool is a simple means by which certain objectives are achieved. Different objects, both material and abstract, can be tooled. For example, colonial regimes use education and pedagogy as tools to tame the mental states of their subjects to the advantage of the regimes’ beneficiaries. Tooling is an effective mechanism of ensuring that even an objective reached can be recycled, re used or re tooled to reach yet another related or an entirely new objective.

The understanding of this phenomenon has been difficult to mainstream because pedagogies as scientific theories and practices of teaching and learning have been left for experts to investigate. Ordinary people, especially those interested in alternative systems, need to look into this and ask questions as well.

It is important for anyone who is interested in this issue and how it helped to mould colonised spaces, particularly Africa, to engage the issues in different contexts. It is good to do so for learning purposes so I engage different people in different contexts on it. My thinking on the issue tends towards the Sankore School because of its ability to address collective dilemmas on a self-organizing informal and non-production based setups. Moreover, I consider overall systemic arrangements important than pragmatic within-system operations partly because pragmatist approaches to colonial issues can easily ramp into the practice of neo-colonialism. Ultimately, pragmatic practices of pedagogy in this regard simply means it is given to the oppressed as a tool for them use to manage their own oppression.

So how did this happen? How did pedagogy become a tool of oppression? Naturally, one group of people that I debate very often on such issues and mostly not agreeing at all with, is educated Africans, not only the pseudo flamboyant ones but also sometimes those with critical views as well.

From the logic of the above definition of tooling, educated people within colonised spaces – unless they have seriously and critically engaged this topic – become the primary victims of pedagogy as a tool of oppression.

Let me give a recent example and how it explains this phenomenon. The reactions of some Africans towards any form of emotive reactions of their fellow Africans to the statement of the French President Macron on African families and birth control at the G20 Summit in July 2017, paints a clear picture. The Africans reproachful towards other Africans for reacting emotionally to the statement were mostly the educated ones. The basis of the debate between them and those not educated who reacted emotionally, is the assumption that those who reacted rationally to Macron’s statement (and maybe even found space to accommodate some of what he said) are somehow well educated. This is based on the reasoning that educated people react rationally and uneducated ones react emotionally. This principle completely ignores the fact that emotional thinking in its altering of the thought process and forcing the brain ignore logical processes, has its own advantages too. Educational systems and pedagogical thoughts in modern contexts simply prefer rational thinking in which the mind reasons with logical skills to carefully come to rational conclusions.

The problem here isn’t the separation of emotive from rational approaches. It is the vilification of emotions and the acknowledgment of rationality as the highest thing in education and the way it tools pedagogy for oppression. From the Greco-classics to nineteenth century Hegelian philosophy, it is a thread that runs though European ideas of how we are supposed to comprehend and use knowledge. Socrates’ ideas and the Platonic Dialogues, on which Western civilisation is hinged, all promote this disquiet. But the rule that any emotional argument is bereft of intellectual message has been proven to be wrong in modern psychology.

We often ask if education sometimes isn’t being implemented to trap us instead of free us. But we don’t ask the same question about pedagogy. Paulo Freire most likely thought the oppressed needs its own pedagogy because he knew it could be an oppressor’s tool. But the oppressed must know how pedagogy used as a tool to hold them hostage before creating their own pedagogy.

Education is more of a broader term and hence easy to misunderstand and be simplistically misapplied in vocabularies and ultimately in actions. But pedagogy, which is specific and functions as a scientific rather than a general term, when misappropriated and applied as a tool of oppression, has a more devastating and far reaching effect than what we understand as education. This is partly because education strives to answer the question of “what” while pedagogy strives to answer the question of “how”, in learning and teaching. This means the latter is supposed to be a tool for achieving the former. And when the instrument or tool is not right the planned objectives can under no circumstance be properly reached.

From a colonised person’s perspective, the central damage pedagogy as a tool of oppression has done over centuries remain the vilification of emotions in teaching and learning. Mental damages resulting from oppression ensures the victim has to react emotionally. But because emotional reaction is so vilified as a form of weakness and school system teaches rationally as what an educated person should possess, it creates a form of contradiction within the educated oppressed person – thus, the victims knows they have to be rational because that is what education is all about, but the damages in them require emotional attention. The easiest way out for them becomes simply helping to manage their own oppression.

Rationality’s role in human advancement cannot be overstated – it is enormous, and obviously comes at a cost. It was key to industrialization and the mechanization of social spaces, which gave birth to economic ends as the primary objectives of humans. While we like to see the practical simplicity this form of pedagogy and the resulting economic profits has brought to our lives, such schools of thought as the Sankore help us to see beyond that. They help us see emotions in positive lights to embrace holistic paradigms of education and pedagogy, which combine rationality and emotions. From the Sankore position, we can also see the other side of mechanized humanity and re align our benchmarks for civilisation: thus, for example, arms race, proliferation and propagation of profit from wars, praising corruption and thievery, environmental destruction, prisons and boarder proliferation, legalized slavery, alienation of people’s rights, etc., all of which from a rational point of view, are hallmarks of civilization.

By far, one of the biggest victims of this pedagogy has been educated people within colonised spaces, who as mentioned above, live with an internal contradiction of experiencing oppression emotional and physical oppressions and being educated with a pedagogy that teaches them that showing emotions this is bad. By continuing this process – for example by accusing others of showing emotions – they simply help maintain their own oppression.

If you take most educated Africans for example. Very often, their brains are not trained to see beyond the desperation to “develop”. Even though they still have no agreed definition of what development actually means. This lack an agreed definition is on the other hand, caused by the tooling of pedagogy for oppression. From a simple idea of an improved income, infrastructural improvement, fighting against armed conflicts, to food security to seeking to build prototypes of European societies in Africa, their definition of development takes all kinds of shapes. Today, they speak of development and mean making a prototype Switzerland out of an African country, tomorrow they are hyping Dubai’s glass facade without understanding the underlying social malaise hidden behind those shiny glasses. Tooling pedagogy for oppression simply allows education to add to the confused state of most learned Africans because while their historical and contemporary dehumanization and depravations are tired to serious emotional injuries, the pedagogy with which they are supposed to learn and improve their lives seriously antagonises and vilifies emotional petitions and argumentations. The paradigm that Sankore promotes transcends this.

The highest stage in the impact of this pedagogical dilemma and its propagation of oppression is when nicely promoted rationality is then owned and personified by certain groups of people such as men, white people, Europeans and the vilified emotional petitions are owned by women, blacks, Africans, indigenes, and other groups. This establishes itself as the frame of analysing the world and helps the perpetuation of systemic oppression. In this regard, every hallmark of civilisation has rationality in its corner helping to cause emotional damages while vilifying emotional petitions. At its very sophisticated height, the oppressor does not have to move a finger – thus, oppression becomes automated and self-sustaining. The oppressed manage their own oppression turning on each other based on preference pedagogy as a tool placed on certain social depictions over others.

With schools of thought like Sankore, pedagogy can be tooled differently to help lip-frog the current paradigm of separation of rationality and emotions to combine them for better human learning and teaching and benchmarks of civilization, and ultimately help the educated amongst the oppressed to recognise that they are in fact one of the most disadvantaged groups if and when education and pedagogy are properly defined.



  1. I share with you Audu Salisu’s illustrative summary of a fascinating concept about the consequences of leaving our “independent” educational systems in Africa as they seem to be portrayed now, to the mind-corrosive dangers of their (neo-)colonial origin and design.

    More, since our leaders continue to insist that these vestigial colonial institutions are as good an education as we can get—dismissing any dialogue on the issues—they commit violence en mass against us, and the generations yet to come. For to alienate us from our own decisions concerning how we should be “educated” is to change us into slaves, objects to be used and abused by tyrants! So, unless we can wake up, wrest control, and define our own systems, we fatalistically accept our own exploitation.

    But again, the more I write I spoil what should become food for thought at every table. Enjoy!

  2. Great article, the oppressor is willing to do anything to keep the oppressed miseducated. Once you have the right eudacation, you become truly independent and powerful.


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