Children in Freedom School, the only Afrocentric school in Kenya. Photo: Children In Freedom School/Facebook/@cifschools.
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A Kenyan school founded on Ubuntu and Afrocentrism

The Children in Freedom School in Kenya has an Afrocentric approach to education that recognises the greatness inherent in every African child, nurturing it from an early age, and preparing them to design solutions that will change their local communities and the world.

Kenya’s education is still based on the colonial system of education. The tumultuous history, curriculum, and language difficulties of this system exist because of the Eurocentric tilt that has been carried forward over generations. Kenyan history textbooks gloss over the realities and brutality of the country’s colonial history, characterising the British as benevolent God-fearing do-gooders who were, “out to eradicate the slave trade and spread a ‘civilizing mission’ designed to make [Africans] all full human beings, on earth and in heaven,” according to Independent Kenya.

In addition, the more global context of the curriculum has relegated unbiased African history, knowledge, and culture. By enshrining in the education system, the replacement of indigenous value systems, the relegation of indigenous history, and the ‘uncivilised’ notion of indigenous culture and tradition, the British government laid the foundation for capitalist modes of economics. Which as we now know could not thrive in a communalistic society.

An Afrocentric Approach to Education

Years on, and the hooks of nefarious education and religious principles are still deeply embedded. Even as we push to reclaim our heritage and ‘emancipate ourselves from mental slavery’ (word to Bob Marley) some aspects are slow to change if not outrightly obstinate.

Dr. Utheri Kanayo who holds a Ph.D. in Education is redesigning the current curriculum and using Afrocentric educational models to shape the next generation

But some work is being done to rectify and localise education. Dr. Utheri Kanayo who holds a Ph.D. in Education is redesigning the current curriculum and using Afrocentric educational models to shape the next generation who will one day build and innovate based on their cultural and local context. With her husband Eng. Oku Kanayo, she helped co-found the Children in Freedom School in 2018.

Wakesho and Kerubo on Children in Freedom School’s Culture Day. The school is the only Afrocentric school in Kenya. Photo: Children In Freedom School/Facebook/@cifschools

The original idea was to set up a charity that ran a scholarship and mentorship program, but the duo realised that “Helping children attend schools that continued to use the same curriculum–that had not worked in decolonising children’s minds–would not produce the type of Africans we wanted to see,” Dr. Kanayo told Global Ed Leadership.

This awareness prompted the creation of the Mentorship for Freedom program, which used an approach that, “focuses on including positive African histories, culture, and literature within curriculums; decreasing the amount of exposure to Eurocentric and American narratives in lessons,” she explained.

The Children in Freedom School

The impact the mentorship program had was so profound that the educators decided to invest in a project solely focused on their vision. Using their savings, they build the Children in Freedom School.

The institution, “Uses the Kenyan curriculum, but follows an Afro-centric model. For example, when looking at a Eurocentric text, we replace the foreign names or activities with a relevant local reference. This allows us to meet the curriculum standards while building African culture, history, and one’s own voice into lessons. We call ourselves by our African names, rather than our English names. We also teach mother tongue languages and allow students to take exams in their native language. We also nurture talents by creating opportunities where children are exposed to various activities such as cooking, programming, dancing, scientific experiments, gymnastics, fashion, and design, etc.”

Photo: Children In Freedom School/Facebook/@cifschools

They also use Ubuntu ideology to encourage collectivism and a peer accountability system where the student body acts for the good of the group. Ubuntu founded on values of respect, human dignity, compassion, solidarity, and consensus, demands conformity and loyalty to the group.

The school also sorts through modern challenges “We introduce children early to understanding the global racial power hierarchy for Africans so that they are not only aware of this dynamic, but can start criticising and critiquing the validity of such notions.”

Dr. Kanayo and her husband are planning to open a Pan-African boarding secondary school to complement the existing kindergarten and primary schools. In the future their model may be adopted in more Kenyan schools and facilitate the African renaissance we’ve all been waiting for.

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