Education, Aké, and A Forest of Flowers

Cotey Binns '00, English 27, Brown University, Autumn 1997

Like Buch Emecheta's The Slave Girl, Aké and A Forest of Flowers make education a dominant, recurring motif to which postcolonial theory can be applied. Both authors utilize the role of education to illustrate key features of postcolonial African societies. Saro-wiwa, for example, demonstrates the economic repercussions and inequalities that an uneducated man encounters in "A Share of Profit." Lacking a formal western education and accounting skills, Bom loses money as it passes through tradesmen's hands. Upon realizing Bom's mistake, Kara hints, "'You should go to school'" (A Forest of Flowers, 47). As colonizers add formal education to a colony's social system, colonizers further remove lower classes from the possibility of financial success and survival because they cannot afford schooling.

In Aké, Soyinka and his companions of the school compound see education as a means of prospering in colonial Nigeria. Formal education is the setting for Aké: Wole grows up on grammar school grounds, his father is Headmaster, his favorite adult the bookseller's wife. Wole sees the obvious civil and legal benefits of becoming educated: His educated family, for instsance, lives in economic comfort in comparison to his elder relatives who refuse education and literacy.

To Wole's grandfather, books are weapons, and he comments that Wole's farther wants to send him

into battle and believe me, the world of books is a battlefield, it is a tougher battlefield than the ones we used to know. So how does he prepare him? By stuffing his head with books. But booklearning, and especially success in booklearning only creates other battles...You think those men are going to be pleased when you, whom they are nearly old enough to spawn, start defeating them? (Aké, 143).P>

The colonizers create the obstacle of education as a means of increasing their status over the colonized. However, as Wole's grandfather points out, driven Yorubans will overcome the British education barrier. With equal capabilities in language and other schooling, the modernized Yorubans will fight colonization with its own weapons.

Postcolonial theory benefits a discussion of education by unveiling its harmful effects, yet critics' tendency to generalize with it overlooks the consequences of education on the individual. The introduction to the chapter on education in The Postcolonial Studies Reader suggests that education veers away from traditionalism, yet it claims that colonists stealthily implement education, leaving the colonized unaware of what they put upon themselves.

This domination by consent is achieved through what is taught to the colonised, how it is taught, and the subsequent emplacement of the educated subject as a part of the continuing imperial apparatus--a knowledge of English literature, for instance, was required for entry into the civil service and the legal professions. Education is thus a conquest of another kind of territory--it is the foundation of colonialist power and consolidates this power through legal and administrative apparatuses. (425).

As Wole and Bom demonstrate, the educated receive rewards, whereas the uneducated suffer economically and authoritatively in a postcolonial environment. However problematic, the term postcolonialism must have a broad definition to incorporate all aspects of a colonized society, including those characteristics unassociated with colonization. For instance, colonization can be irrelevant or obsolete in cases where traditionalism overrides those characteristics of the colonizer. The passage from the Reader's introduction does not incorporate the powers of tradition as a means of defying colonizing conquests; Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin ignore pertinent societal customs in their postcolonial theory of education.

Postcolonial OV discourseov Ake Saro Wiwa OV