Interview with Dr John Marah on Pan-Africanism

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A Pan-Africanist scholar and leading educational theorist, Dr Marah has contributed immeasurably to the advancement of the idea of the need for a coordinated and coherent education policy across Africa and stretching into the diaspora. This culminated in his 2018 book, “Pan-African Education, a must for the African Union“.

Dr Marah will be joining us for a meeting of thought leaders and leading stakeholders in education and Pan-Africanism. Ahead of this important conversation, Dr Marah kindly shared some of his thoughts on Pan-Africanism, what sparked his interest in this area, and how he has used literature to further synthesise his thoughts on the need for greater unity of African peoples.

AHP: It is hard but how would you describe Pan-Africanism in a single sentence?

​Marah: Pan-Africanism is the philosophy/belief that African people in Africa and abroad must have a united front in all things essential for mutual progress, development, and defense.

AHP: Who first sparked your interest in Pan-Africanism?

Marah: Osagyefo, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

AHP: Who is your favourite Pan-African thinker, living or passed away, and why?

Marah: My favorite Pan-African thinker remains Dr. Kwame Nkrumah: he epitomizes prolific scholarship, incisive analysis of the African condition, particularly in his philosophy of consciencism, and his eclectic analysis of the economic, social, political, cultural dimensions of global Africa.

Related Article: Top 5 Books and Articles on Pan-African Education

AHP: What would you say was the single most significant impact, for better or for worse, of western formal education on indigenous African knowledge and knowledge acquisition systems?

Marah: The worst impact of western formal education on indigenous African knowledge and knowledge acquisition systems includes the total disregard of African peoples’ humanity and culture as worthy of study; proliferation of the idea that before the western world, Africa had nothing to offer the global village; the holding up of formal Eurocentric education as the epitome for universal adoption. 

Marah: A good number of African thinkers saw through this veneer and opted for an Africa-centric system of education that we’ve dubbed Pan-African education. At least western systems demonstrated that educational systems are not innocent institutions that just happen to be, that they are crafted institutions to produce a desired character or characters/personalities.

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AHP: What would you like people to get out of our upcoming conversation?

​Marah: From this conversation, people will internalize that Africa is not an intellectual clean slate upon which their ideas (foreign ideas, concepts, and institutions) can be imposed without interrogations. 

​Marah: They will leave with an understanding that there are foundations for African integration beyond the European-created nation-states; that diversities on the continent are often exacerbated by the lack of common educational institutions that impart shared experiences, formally as well as informally, and as such, that when pan-Africanists talk of African unity in all aspects, this does not mean anti-any-one. 

​Marah: Finally, they will come to appreciate that Pan-Africanism, and its ineluctable system of education, is a global phenomenon, advocating global citizenship in which African people are not the hewers of wood and drawers of water. Therefore, those that are for global citizenship education can profitably partner with Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanists for the creation of a more humane global village.

AHP: You teach literature as well as political and educational theory and have written a novel, can you tell us a little about your novel?

​Marah: Dining and Dancing with the Devils (Africa World Press, 2018) is informed by African peoples’ social and cultural lived experiences in Africa and in the Diaspora; it contains a cast of characters from several African countries in a university setting, a place for intellectual discussions on the African condition, and ends with ‘And now, we can both go to Mother Africa and build us our own nation.’ At the end, the African and the African Diaspora must have a nation they call their own!