“Crushing the anthill” Essentials of arts education development in Africa: The case of Zambia

Cheela H K Chilala


Arts education training in Africa has lagged behind other continents largely because of the absence of appropriate policies and, where policy exists, lack of the political will to implement the content. Few African countries have formulated clear policies on arts education training, let alone cultural policies. This fact was spotlighted at the 1st Regional Conference on Arts Education in Africa held in Johannesburg, South Africa, 11-13 March 2015, organised by NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development). It was, in fact, the realisation that Africa lacks arts education training policy, and accompanying cultural policy, that necessitated the gathering meant for countries of the southern African region – the first of several regional conferences planned by NEPAD. While acknowledging the need for arts education training policy in Africa, however, this article argues that such policy needs to be both backward-looking and forward-looking. That is to say, it should not only help improve the state of arts training for a better future, but also draw from the African past in terms of experiences as well as training in the arts. This is because, as the article argues, the arts and education existed in Africa even before the dawn of colonialism or mission schools. For arts education training policy to work in Africa, it must include traditional art forms alongside western art forms, and, for implementation, must draw from both traditional and western forms of education. This article stresses the importance of Africa’s Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKSs) and anchors its arguments around five P’s: Pedigree (what have we done?), Practice (what are we doing?), Potential (what can we do?), Policy (what is the role of government?), and People (what have ordinary citizens done and what can they do?). Ultimately, this article argues that effective arts education policy must not only involve all the stakeholders in both formulation and implementation, but must also be able to target learners from early childhood to adulthood; that is, it must encompass all levels of education, both formal and informal. Further, this article argues that arts education training should ensure that the recipients are able to contribute the development of the cultural industries of African countries, and that African countries should share experiences and resources as a way of developing arts education training.

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