meta content='width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0' name='viewport'/>

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Lumumba-Soviet poster at the Patrice Lumumba People’s Friendship University in Moscow

Lumumba-Soviet poster at the Patrice Lumumba People’s Friendship University in Moscow

Many people who have made their marks in the annals of Africa’s development and have gone ahead to become major players in the global scheme of things are beneficiaries of international scholarships. In Nigeria, the colonial government used to offer scholarships and grants that enabled colonial civil servants to undertake training and studies in the United Kingdom.

Town unions and Churches also complimented their effort by sponsoring brilliant indigenes and members to the United Kingdom for tertiary education. It was an exciting phenomenon as Parisians and kinsmen respectively trooped to airports to witness the departure of their loved ones to (oyinbo-White man's country)- countries for the golden fleece.

The return of these ambassadors was also celebrated with pomp and pageantry, choreographed with folk dances and folk songs that gave the returnee the feeling of home sickness. If for anything, the reception gave the returnee the inkling that to whom much is given, much is expected. It thus re-invigorated the patriotic spirit in the life of the celebrant.

And that often played out when the person got employed in civil/public service or got elected/ appointed into a political position. The need to give back thus over-shadowed every moral decorum in service matters as primordial interest occasioned by clannish loyalty set a template for the person’s sense of service.

The same way the town union scholarship beneficiary was blindly loyal to his kinsmen even to the extent of displaying nepotistic tendencies in the course of his duty, was also the way beneficiaries of international scholarships were blindly loyal to their benefactors in Europe, America or Asia. This merely fulfilled the saying that “he who pays a piper dictates the tune.”

And the consequence was the invasion of Africa by global powers through narcissistic models. This played out in the 50s, 60s, and 70s during the pre-independence struggle and post- independence Africa as major powers struggled to have a foot-hold in Africa by entrenching a diversity of scholarships space. 

Scholarships to young Africans became a hook used in trapping brilliant, young African minds by emerging world powers like United States, Soviet Union, Germany, and China in addition to the colonial masters in Europe.

The United States came up with Fulbright scholarships as far back as I947 and other awards that brought artists and professionals from Africa to undertake learning and research in America. 

It was followed by other awards Germany also evolved Academic Exchange Scholarships that brought to Germany academically inclined young minds from developing countries interested in undertaking specialized studies/research in German universities leading to Master’s or Ph.D.

The Soviet Union in an attempt to establish soft power in Africa threw open the gates of its universities to scholars from Africa and other parts of the world. African students who were interested in the Sciences, Medicine, Engineering and Social Sciences took full advantage of full scholarships from the Soviet Union government to study in Moscow, Leningrad (now called St. Petersburg), Kiev (now in Ukraine) and other Soviet towns and cities.

This was the era when the radical Ghanaian poet, Atukwei Okai, famous for his works, Logoligi Logarithm and Elevanyo Concerto went to study in the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR). The Soviet government established the Patrice Lumumba People’s Friendship University in the heart of Moscow in the aftermath of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba as a rainbow institution that brought together people from all nations and races for studies.

Although the motive behind Soviet scholarships was to export Soviet Socialist ideology to Africa, their effort, however, opened a broader space for African students to access education outside the conclave of their colonial masters in Europe. Before the collapse of Soviet Union in December I99I, about 50,000 Africans were trained in Russian universities.

Some of them included African leaders like Tamani Toure of Mali, Jose Dos Santos of Angola and Thabo Mbeki who later became President of South Africa. According to Guy Pandji of University of Ngaoundere, Cameroun, writing in NORRAG News of April 20II, “Russia used to grant more scholarships and receive more African students than many other developed countries.

But by the beginning of the 90s, the situation changed dramatically and the country was not able to fulfill most of its promises concerning granting of scholarships. Russia is back since I999 and is promoting its influences through the scholarship dimension.” 

USSR’s generosity was soon joined by its allies in Eastern Europe namely, East Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Poland. These countries offered thousands of bilateral scholarships annually to African youths who were interested in medical and technological courses. Yet like the Soviet Union, the awards had the serious ideological inclination.

The Nordic countries in Europe including the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden also threw gates of their universities open to free tuition to African and global students. Sweden, a leading Scandinavian country even awarded scholarships in addition to free tuition to Africans through the Swedish Institute up till 20II when free tuition was banned.

Thus, African students who went to Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden in the 60s and 70s had free tuition while working to sustain themselves in their host nations. China which at that time was undergoing a sweeping Communist revolution did not sit on the fence either. It also threw its institutions open to scholars from Africa on full scholarships basically in the area of social sciences, humanities and Chinese medicine.

 It was its own way of entrenching soft power even as it was also developing its full potential in social sciences. Most scholarships of that era were based on bilateral relationships between some African countries and award providing nations in Europe, America, and Asia. European colonial powers like France, Britain, Portugal, and Spain attracted most of the beneficiaries of these awards.

They were trained to replace colonial masters who were at that time disengaging from Africa but who did not want their structure to be disengaged. Through this instrumentality, they were able to perpetrate their influence and stronghold in the economies and dictate the pace of political developments in African countries. 

The Commonwealth Scholarships established by former colonies of Britain in I959 was one of the major schemes that helped to galvanize British post-colonial influence in these countries.

Today, over 30,000 people have benefitted from the award in the last 55 years-all of them trained as agents for the perpetration of British power in Africa. Beneficiaries have called developmental cum leadership shots in their countries in academics, public service or international organisations. One of them is Professor Jubril Aminu who has distinguished himself in academics, public service and in politics.

Aminu has served as Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Minister of Education, Minister of Petroleum, Vice-Chancellor of University of Maiduguri, Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States and a two-time senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria. The British government also added Chevening scholarship scheme in I963 to consolidate its post-colonial influence globally in education, leadership, and global development.

The writer, Effiong Edeke, is the author of the book WORLD SCHOLARSHIPS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS and Editor-In-Chief of Education Today International magazine based in Lagos, Nigeria. 

No comments:

Post a Comment