The first mental darkness

The first mental darkness and its impact

The first mental darkness, which occurred after the African mind-set was switched-off in connection with science-based development, failed African societies to progress scientifically and therefore, economically.

The cause

The causes of the first mental darkness are far distant in history and therefore difficult to appreciate, even to accept, especially after a period spanning centuries. But briefly, in the pre-colonial days, African societies established practical-based education systems where children learned largely by living and doing. They completed training as skilled medicine men and women, blacksmiths, musicians, cattle keepers among others. Although this type of education produced reliable skilled workers, it cultivated a deep sense of respect for natural conditions and the environment among learners. While this helped in preserving the local environment, it undermined the instincts of imagination and inquisitiveness.

Overtime, a mental orientation towards harmonious co-existence with nature developed and was promoted in African societies. This mental formation was incompatible with a science culture; it hindered Africans growing the attitude needed to harness science for development. In other words, it switched-off the African mind-set in connection with the science-based development.

Its impact on the pre-colonial Africa

“Africans did not advance technologically, not because they were primitive, underdeveloped, but because their Distinct Mental Orientation gave them different pursuits and methods.” Léopold S. Senghor, one of the outstanding scholars on pre-colonial Africa, wrote[1] acknowledging both the first mental darkness and its impact in pre-colonial Africa.

[1] Senghor L.S. 1995 ‘On Negrohood: Psychology of the African Negro’, in A. Mosley, ed., African Philosophy: Selected Readings. Englewood Cliffs, N. J., Prentice-Hall

Its impact on the post-independence Africa

Literature show that the most decisive and sustainable factor in development is for economic growth to be based on scientific and technological innovations. The other forms of growth turn out to be short-lived[1]. Accordingly, and after independence, African societies embraced science and technology (S&T) across the board, namely in education, training, research and development. Over the next 50 years, sub-Saharan countries invested efforts and their scarce resources into S&T. But unfortunately, that investment ended up benefiting the ‘global science system’ with minimal effects locally.

The failure of sub Saharan countries to harness science for development was not due to their chronic underfunding of sciences. Nor was it a consequence of the lack of a critical mass of science workers in these countries, as the examples of Nigeria and Ghana inform us. During the oil boom of 1970s, Nigeria invested heavily into S&T. The effort boosted science infrastructure, research, education and training across the country. As a consequence, the scientific community in Nigeria flourished. The country’s publications output skyrocketed. Nigeria acquired and enjoyed an international reputation. But although this progress in S&T was impressive and reassuring, it had no impact on Nigeria’s development[2]. Similarly, the government of J.J. Rawlings instituted and implemented policies that enabled Ghana to achieve the science workforce that far exceeded the required critical mass. But this achievement had no impact on Ghana’s subsequent development[3], not even after a decade later!

Clearly, until Nigeria, Ghana and other sub-Saharan countries overcome the first mental darkness towards development, their attempts to prioritise S&T will continue to benefit the ‘global science system’ with limited effects locally. In other words, their aim of realising and sustaining growth that is based on scientific and technological innovations will remain a distant dream, even after attaining the critical mass of science workers and significant funding into S&T.

[1] UNESCO 1969

[2] Chatelin, Y., Gaillard, J. Keller, A.S. 1997. The Nigerian scientific Community: the colossus with feet of clay. Sage Publications, New Delhi

[3] Essegbey G. 2006. A science culture is key to Ghana’s development. SciDev.Net.

Helping your country overcome this challenge

The book has been specially prepared to popularise the sciences among learners of Years 1–3 of secondary school, irrespective of whether they are inclined towards arts or sciences. In the process of popularising sciences however, the book rids the upcoming generation of the mental darkness in connection with science-based development. In other words, it develops the mental clarity needed of their country in order to harness S&T for development.

At the end of the book, learners are linked to three complementary e-resources. First resource inspires learners into coming up with scientific and technological solutions to various problems or challenges in their local settings. Second resource motivates and guides learners towards embracing local challenges as opportunities for creating jobs or wealth. The last resource provides learners with career guidance in the sciences.

Significance of your contribution

Proceeds from selling you an opportunity for remembrance, described in the  video here, are largely for (i) revisiting the developed complementary e-resources so that they acquire meaning and relevancy in line with your country’s cultural and socio-economic perspectives (ii) offsetting the production costs.