a picture of moyo okediji having a CONVERSATION WITH NIKE OKUNDAYE



Moyo: When I was 6 years old, I started attending the free primary school that the Western Nigerian government offered.

My teachers were supposed to teach me simple facts: how did additions and subtractions work? What happens when you mix oxygen and carbon dioxide? How do you speak English without committing grammatical blunders? And so on, and so forth.

But what really happened? My teachers saw the chance to teach me as an opportunity to tell me that Jesus was good and my indigenous traditions were evil.

That only the English language was a language and that my African language was just a vernacular to be despised.

The miseducation was totally Pavlovian: it was like you trained a dog. Whenever I said that Jesus was good, they said “Good boy,” and gave me a good grade. Whenever I said “Esu is Satan and Ifa is evil,” they said “Good boy,” and moved me to the next class. Whenever I expressed interest in watching the Egungun, my teachers said, “Bad boy,” and frowned at me, possibly gave me six strokes of the cane.

That education was not free. It was at the expense of stripping me of any true understanding of my ancestral heritage. It has cost me very dearly. It has denied my people of a sense of self-worth. And it makes them think their culture is inferior and the only thing of value is to be found in the cultures of the very people who processed them to look down on our African ancestral values, African history, and African concepts of humanity.

Can you please come take back your free education?

It has ruined us, and it is costing us dearly.

Just take a look at the devastation that my people and my land have become.

Nike: Know what? You are so right, Moyo. I am lucky to not receive the contamination of that formal education.

Photo: Bisi Oladunjoye

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