According to anthropologists, any society is said to be civilized by virtue of having a culture. Since culture is a means through which humans make life easy and comfortable, their definition can be simply proved to be right, since this preoccupation has been a natural hallmark of any given society. The key point here is that the point that stresses the need or rather the struggle to make life easier and comfortable. This challenge is relative, which means it changes with time and place since both brings with them a specific challenges and opportunities. For instance, the most pressing challenges say a century ago cannot be the same as today’s challenges. That is why the practices that were pervasive hundred years ago are no more at this time. Hence the cultures or practice both times could be expected to be different.
Therefore culture is dynamic that constantly changes. This change occurs not just because it is natural, but also because it is a need if humans are to survive and develop. To come to an understanding, hence, culture changes to meet the needs of a given society. So when we talk about developing one’s culture we are saying changing it or tailoring it every now and then in a way that will address the most pressing issues in a society in order to make life easy and comfortable.
If we can’t keep updating our culture, our situation or reality would not be best suited for the demand of the time. Be it as individual or community keeping up with the demands of the day is essential. For instance in a traditional societies where the means of living was hunting and gathering, life’s demand was simple and people were leading a relaxed life. The culture of such a society then must change if the same society was to survive and develop in today’s world. Now development is influenced by many factors. However, culture constitutes an important pillar in this equation.
So what is at stake now? What are the demands of today’s era and what should be our culture that is optimum for the current reality of our world. There is a lot we can talk about concerning this point; but for today we are going to focus on an important issue. Needless to say life demand has proliferated over the years, reaching its peak in our contemporary world. Life in today’s context therefore goes far beyond fulfilling the immediate demand of the essentials. Faring well in such a circumstance requires being extremely competitive in the global arena, since interaction is a pre-requisite. And competition nowadays in turn requires generating knowledge to keep up with the demand. In this particular argument original knowledge needs to be particularly given an emphasis.
Original knowledge is the foundation to any kind of knowledge generation. This is to say that learning from other’s experience can only exist when one has something of one’s own. If not it then becomes copying in which case one will always be dependent on the body responsible for the original knowledge creation. One other point of concern is that knowledge should be
practical and hence address real issue on ground. Foreign knowledge, though can be important in a lot of aspects, cannot diagnose local problem and therefore prescribe local solution effectively. In one of his recent articles about the need to re-introduce research back in the higher education institutions of Africa; Mahmood Mamdani has clearly put the need to revise the overall make up of higher education practice in African countries. He underscored that African knowledge creation mechanism is anachronistically based on western theoretical framework whose underpinning is a different western historical experience. He therefore suggests the need to put into perspective our overall education practices. That is perhaps the reason why many suggestions that was meant to solve African problems often don’t work and also often has a negative repercussion that endures. The World Bank and IMF infamous Structural Adjustment Policies epitomizes the core point of this article that alien recommendation coming from foreign not only doesn’t work but also becomes a recipe for further chaos.
What kind of knowledge does Eritrea need? The answer is simply the kind of knowledge that is home grown and one that is best suited to answer, diagnose, and prescribe our problem. Effective local solution for local problem can only come from local knowledge. To come and think of it, who should know more about our land, sea, culture, people and challenges than we, the owners? Appreciating this can give us a good recipe, and firm ground to conduct extensive research so as we can develop whatever it is we have and address and solve our problems.
Here the role of educational institution and especially higher ones is essential. This is because knowledge creation must be institutionalized so that a concerted and coordinated approach can be possible. In this respect the task that is awaiting us is humongous to the point that it becomes daunting. Nonetheless it is an issue we must soon embark upon if we are to achieve our goals as a nation. Our immediate requirement for our big national task of nation building, which is nationalism, requires that we take this matter seriously if the road ahead is to be smooth. It is hard to expect to engender the national feeling when you wait on others to solve your problem. Imagine having our own social or political theory, technological invention, cyber breakthrough, or medicine concocted from Eritrean herbs by Eritrean experts! Now imagine a generation of students brought up through a school curriculum whose foundation is this native knowledge! It is self-evident that the pride this would instill in our students and young generations beside the actual solutions the knowledge would bring in the different fields.
One example we should mention here is an experiment that was conducted in our escarpment which tries to milk the fog so as to alleviate the water shortages in the adjacent areas. Now, the escarpments have always been there, and so is the fog. We cannot say why we didn’t think of this idea first though it would not be completely wrong to do so. The point here is that this is how local knowledge will help us to address local problem. Our educational institutions should be organized in a way that would identify such problem and give the right and timely response tailored to our peculiar challenges and needs.
This all boils down to a simple point; and that is we need to build and enhance a culture of research that is able to create knowledge from our particular situation and reality in order to emerge competitive in our contemporary world. And this road towards this end should be led by our higher educational institutions. Eritrea future must be calculated from this fundamental understanding as it is the most reliable way forward.