"A GREAT TREE HAS FALLEN": COMMUNITY, SPIRITUAL ECOLOGY, AND AFRICAN EDUCATION

  • Eric Ritskes Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada
Keywords: Indigenouse knowledge, Africa education, sacred forests, reforestation

Abstract

In African communities, the spiritual connections to the land and the Indigenous wisdom used to nurture it have been subjugated by Western development and the Eurocentric knowledges that buttress it. The Indigenous frameworks which inform the daily life of communities as they interact with their environments, have largely been replaced by Western scientific discourses which frame the individual as the primary social unit and which commodify the environment for consumption. This article examines how it may be possible to re-imagine the community in relationship with its environments, especially as it pertains to education in African contexts. In this process, community participation is a necessity and cannot be a sort of superficial bandage solution, but must involve the interrogation of the larger structures and discourses that underpin development and education in Africa. Development and education must meet the needs of the communities in a holistic way; not only in the daily physical sense, but also in terms of spiritual connections, knowledge production, and the valuing of history. This article takes up the example of carbon credit projects, especially those of community forests in Africa, as an example of the way that development in Africa has broken communities and distanced African Indigenous peoples from their sacred knowledge of the land. The article explores what this commodification means for African education and how a critical pedagogy based on Indigenous knowledges might be used to resist and disrupt Western educational discourses.

Author Biography

Eric Ritskes, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada
Eric Ritskes is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education (SESE) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.