Reflections on Higher Education in Ghana and Peter Ekeh’s Two Publics

Delali Amuzu


Peter Ekeh (1975) theorizes in “Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa: A Theoretical Statement” that, primarily, two publics emerged out of European colonialism in Africa—the primordial public (akin to the ethnic groupings) and the civic public (the state and its bureaucracies). Contrasting dispositions and moral etiquettes are exhibited toward these publics; positing that, while the primordial is seen as vulnerable, and thus nurtured, the civic is an item for exploitation. The dynamics of these publics and the associated interplay of values have become fluid and complex in contemporary Ghana. However, attempting to interrogate these attitudinal dispositions requires an examination of the nature of socialization that occurs in Ghana’s higher education (university) system. The article, therefore, reflects on the colonial antecedents of Ghana’s university education, arguing that it was molded predominantly by the economic aspirations of the colonial enterprise. It is geared toward the production of people who use it to bolster their own economic position, usually through the perpetuation of amoral arrangements. However, the motivation for pursuing higher education is not the desire to confront or alter these established exploitative values and schemes, but the idea of it as an avenue to be co-opted into its bureaucracies. Going forward, I contend that universities must remain cognizant of the colonial foundations and corresponding value systems, and how they consciously or unconsciously sustain them. Universities should engage in critical rethinking in order to nurture a critical mass interested in the development of an equitable society.

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