Re-thinking the role of nationality in Malawian primary school education for cosmopolitan citizenship

Manthalu, Chikumbutso Herbert (2018-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT : The pervasiveness of global interconnectedness has necessitated the re-imagination of the breadth and scope of citizenship. No longer should citizenship conceptualisation be restricted to the nation-state. There is arguable consensus of the normative necessity to cultivate cosmopolitan citizenship whose scope of duties transcends national borders. However, the question of what the form and substance of cosmopolitan citizenship should be remains contested. A given conception of cosmopolitanism directly informs the nature of education for democratic citizenship. The prevalent model of cosmopolitan citizenship outlaws national particularism ostensibly for being inherently inimical to the impartiality of universalism. The underlying logic is that equal concern for all people of the world is achievable only through impartiality over all particularism. There has however not been much research about the normative implications, especially for developing nations, of an impartiality that necessarily extinguishes national belonging. The context of developing nations demands a fundamental re-think of the potentiality of an exclusively impartial cosmopolitanism for such cosmopolitanism risks entrenching global inequality. The removal of Malawian History from the primary school curriculum and of mother-tongue instruction for the first four years of primary education has normative motivations and implications. This dissertation argues that the systematic diminishing of the role of nationality through the removal of national History from the curriculum in Malawi, and adoption of English as the sole medium of instruction in primary education, are advancing a problematic cosmopolitan citizenship model that is incompatible with ideal human equality. Such a cosmopolitanism undermines the normative value of mother-tongue instruction. The cosmopolitanism also regards national history as inherently promoting parochialism and thus inherently inhibitive of universalist cosmopolitan duties. Building on Seyla Benhabib’s (1992; 2011) idea of the concrete (differences) standpoint of universalism of human equality, as opposed to the general (commonality) standpoint of universalism, this dissertation argues that since nationality hosts people’s sources of concreteness, nationality has normative value and ideal cosmopolitanism is therefore essentially a duality of the particular and the universal. The two are mutually dependent and regulating ideals such that supplanting one for the other undermines human equality. An essentialist universalism is problematic because by excluding subjectivity and particularism, it denies normative value to what individuates the peoples of the world as the concrete (not merely generic) human beings that they are. The dissertation further argues that the idea of the detached transcendent self for whom social relations are not constitutive of being is flawed because it ignores the care he or she receives from others to achieve autonomy. Achievement of autonomy is dependent on the relations and institutions of care-giving typified by such elements of nationality as language, history, common culture and territory. With respect to democracy, nationality, though often assuming a background role, is the principle that makes civic patriotism possible. Civic patriotism cannot sustain democracy without continually drawing from nationality. The dissertation argues that ideal authenticity-oriented education ought not to avoid subjectivity or else the education will lose meaningfulness to the people. Education should acknowledge that learners as citizens share a common fate through nationality. In education, the marginalisation of the national subjective for citizenship in favour of exclusive impartiality, amounts to tacit assimilation because the ostensible objective impartiality prejudicially marginalises valid moral perspectives of the world’s other peoples. In Malawi, despite being the motivation and catalyst of colonial resistance, nationality was abused in the independence era. Currently, there are tokenistic commitments to nationality due to a lack of political will coupled with the prevalence of neoliberalism. Global interconnectedness, which necessitates and enables the imagination, of cultivation of cosmopolitan duties is itself characteristically inhered by Eurocentric particularism, neoliberalism and inequality in the representation of global people’s particular interests. Consequently, the marginalisation of the local promotes attitudes that regard local language and local epistemologies as subaltern. In such a context, mother-tongue instruction is stripped of its normative value. National History is regarded as advancing particularity, and narrowmindedness. However, particularism is an indispensable component of ideal universalism. Further, there are valid relational normative conceptualisations of human nature besides individual-centrism that found a relational (and not individual-centric) universalism. This research contributes towards the re-imagination of an education for citizenship that challenges the prevailing global homogenisation of the unprivileged and unrepresented epistemologies and voices, marginalised on account of their otherness, ultimately compelled to assimilate involuntarily into the mainstream in the name of impartiality of equality.

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