Sunday, June 11, 2017



God bless Yoruba culture! After my mother's funeral I do recall seeing some old ladies digging a hole in her garden over there in Edgware - and this left me more and more baffled as I watched them "feeding" some food into the hole. What are you doing, I asked them and after they explained, I left them to their devices and went indoors to attend to our guests...

I don't have anything against the Hebrew Faith and I know all about Malinowski and sympathetic magic but this kapparot business is something that I still don't quite understand. The poor chicken!

This is not meant to be satirical - and the mystics know better - but I'm afraid that we arrive at this other kind of transparency once liberated from the super-natural and superstition in religion, enslavement by superstition giving way to the purity of science, so that instead of a tearful eulogy from Professor Falola or Pastor Adeboye or even a poetic appreciation by Anthony Chidi Opara, before earth's pilgrimage is finished in this vale of tears and it's everlasting dust to dust and ashes and ashes, the one who has been redeemed from belief and disbelief could request an eulogy from a physicist and - in the name of pure science, here's what the physicist could say ...

On Sunday, 11 June 2017 01:58:30 UTC+2, Olayinka Agbetuyi wrote:

I agree in large part with your submission on the supernatural and superstition.

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

-------- Original message --------
From: Cornelius Hamelberg <>
Date: 10/06/2017 23:46 (GMT+00:00)
To: USA Africa Dialogue Series <>

Re - "Secondly, Nigerian students do very well among their peers in America here."

As indeed, the children of first generation immigrants in Sweden, especially those from the Baltic States, from Poland and Iran among others; they do splendidly and not only because of the innate/ native intelligence which all of mankind is bequeathed with but also because among other measures - along with lots of encouragement their parents have instilled a study culture into them - and discipline - so that they do their homework on a daily basis - despite the distractions of play-station and other such internet devices which these days tend to monopolise the attention of many of students and pupils of school going age - once they leave the school room.

The language of instruction in the Swedish school system is of course Swedish - with text books in all subjects in that language. Along with everyone else in his class, my seven year old grandson started formally learning English this school year that ended this Friday.

One of the challenges facing the proponents of teaching elementary science and indeed other subjects in the mother tongue is having text books and audio visual materials in the mother tongue. There's also the practical side of teaching science - science laboratories are needed and before that pedagogic toys, and down to earth observations of nature, like watching a bean germinate and grow in the sunlight, right?

The teaching reforms being implemented in Finland aim at rectifying that disconnect between what is usually taught as an academic subject and its relationship to real life.

I should humbly beg to disagree with the contentious proposition that

"a large percentage of Nigerian students show appreciation for superstitious ideas and religion over and above scientific ideas because they were not introduced to scientific ideas as early as they were introduced to these other ideas."

Are "scientific ideas" meant to subvert/ sabotage/ submerge young people's cultural identities?

At what age are scientific ideas introduced to children anywhere? In Israel for example? In India? Why should the supernatural be equated with "superstition"?

Even if science is the new religion I do not think that a child's imaginative world of mystique and wonder ( like a Blake or a Wordsworth) needs to be upset by any adults foisting their uncertainties on them.

Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow) begins

1 Alif. Lam. Mim.

2 This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt, a guidance unto those who ward off (evil).

3 Who believe in the Unseen, and establish worship, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them;

4 And who believe in that which is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) and that which was revealed before thee, and are certain of the Hereafter.

5 These depend on guidance from their Lord. These are the successful.

6 As for the Disbelievers, Whether thou warn them or thou warn them not it is all one for them; they believe not.

7 Allah hath sealed their hearing and their hearts, and on their eyes there is a covering. Theirs will be an awful doom.

Believing in the unseen - like the unseen wind which blows , is surely not superstition?

In Sweden, there is a surfeit of private/ religious schools (mostly Christian and Muslim) where I suppose religion is taught in a devotional way, whereas in the state schools there is the hyper-rational approach to the teaching of religion - what the various faithful believe and what they do in a yearly cycle, life cycle, without any philosophical excursions to justify the existence of God or gods, whether it was God who made man "in His own image" or it was man who made God in his own image...

I remember that when my son was in secondary school his text book in religion had the name of ALLAH subhana ta'ala printed upside down - in my opinion, in spite, and I was going to straighten them out about it.

At the university level religion is introduced via Mircea Eliade. So children who are the products of that kind of hyper-rational approach to the unseen and who come from homes where religion is of no importance whatsoever are usually agnostic or aesthetic. But in our parts of West Africa for example, doesn't religious ethics and Anansi stories or C.S. Lewis children's stories , George Orwell's Animal Farm and so forth help form the child's world view?

If we regard religion as superstition and that superstition/ religious culture is part and parcel of the general cultural environment in which the African child is raised then how does he relate to the culture just because he learned some science?

Nearer to home, I recall my son's world of right and wrong being taught on a day to day basis by his parents, life in the kindergarten etc. He started school in Ahoada - where he lived for a whole year - picked up some Ikwerre before starting school proper back in Sweden, at the age of seven. As to the natural surroundings, he remembers the geckos, Senator Ellah's fish farm of Catfish (- a non-kosher specie) the frogs croaking in unison the rainy season - reminding my Telugu neighbour ( a physicist) of Brahmin priests chanting their mantras...

N. B. Physicists are said to be over-represented among those who attribute a some kind of central, intelligent superpower running his universes - whereas some of the atheists believe that "God" is not even aware of our existence.

On Saturday, 10 June 2017 21:55:59 UTC+2, Kayode J. Fakinlede wrote:

I write this to respond to some of the issues raised by Madam Tina Edebor in particular, and to many of us who, either because I have not made myself clear enough, have not adequately grasped the point I am making.

First of all, I am not really addressing the issue of effective instructional methodology which I am sure, by its very name, means finding methods of effectively delivering instrunctions to a group, in this case, children.  If this were the case, the issue of whether the instruction is delivered in English or some other language would be pertinent.

I, too, have had the opportunity to teach in high schools, both in Nigeria and here. And I have been priviledged to teach in universities here and in Nigeria as well. My humble conclusion is that, given the same materials and under the same circumstances, Nigerian children would most likely outperform their American counterparts in exams. Secondly, Nigerian students do very well among their peers in America here.

Now my point is what I consider science education to be or what it is supposed to achieve. I believe that because of the method we choose to educate our children, they are not getting what is due to them. Because we choose to educate them in a foreign language,

1.       most Nigerian children are not gaining the knowledge of their surroundings as they should. They do not know or are not taught the names of plants, mountains, animals, rivers, etc. within their own locality. This is a primary objective of science education

2.       most Nigerian children are not exposed to the knowledge of the universe. They cannot name the stars, planets, the solar system, seas, oceans, etc. at an apprpriate age.

3.       a large percentage of Nigerian students go through life, therefore without the appreciation of these ideas.

4.       a large percentage of Nigerian students show appreciation for superstitious ideas and religion over and above scientific ideas because they were not introduced to scientific ideas as early as they were introduced to these other ideas.

5.       most Nigerians, on graduating from universities and colleges of technology will not find any usefulness for the science and technology ideas they gained in school, either because the ideas are not meaningful to them, because the ideas do not permeate their consciousness well enough to drive their life ambitions, or cannot find a connection between the ideas and their livelihood. Many of these go back to tailoring or hairdressing upon graduation, except if they can manage to secure some government job.

6.       Most Nigerian graduates of the hard sciences really do not have a real connection between scientific ideas and life, making it almost impossible to benefit from the ideas.

7.       A large percentage of Nigerian graduates, because of the way they were trained prefer things that are foreign even when their own materials are of the same quality or better.

On a grander scale, our method of science education does not permit the application of local materials to benefit us. We may have many millions of mangoes but we cannot mango juice. In many instances, our graduates do not have the knowledge of how chocolate comes from cocoa. The knowledge of the efficacy of our own plants in medicine is lacking; and the common 'acid' test of our science and technology graduates is, we cannot make even toothpicks.

I rest my case


On Thursday, June 8, 2017 at 9:14:34 AM UTC+1, Kayode J. Fakinlede wrote:

Findings based on science have come to the conclusion that using another person's language to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics is dangerous – dangerous - to our children, and to us adults too.

I itemize below, many reasons why this is the case:

1.       Our students, no matter how much they try, are at least five years behind those students who were taught in their native language.

2.       His level of understanding of the subject matter is significantly less than a child who is probably five years younger in the first place.

3.       Much knowledge of the surroundings is not transmitted to the child. This means that he may never know the use values or even the names of the plants and animals within his locality.

4.       Much knowledge about the the universe is not transmitted to the child. This means that the child is not exposed to the wonders of the heavens and things under the sea. Since he cannot receive the information till he learns a foreign language, he has very little chance of learning them at all.

5.       The level of appreciation of science and scientific reasoning is affected by the lateness in grasping scienctific methods. A mind already polluted with superstitious ideas cannot easily shed primitive ideas. For example, a Nigerian child may actually believe that money can come from human body parts – a la Africa Magic.

6.       The level of retention of the subject matter is much less – as much as 50% - over a period of one year compared with a child who was taught in his own language. This means that the student who is taught in a foreign language easily forgets what he learned.

7.       The use value of science and technology is much, much diminished in a child who leaned science and technology in a foreign language.

8.       The child is more likely prefer foreign things, materials, etc. to local things even when those local things are of better quality. This means he will prefer apples to mangoes.

9.       The child is more likely to think that his own language is inferior to the language with which he is being taught.  This inferiority carries on to adulthood.

10.   He child is more likely to think that the person in whose language he is learning is superior to him. This also carries to adulthood.

The disadvantages of not learning science and technology in our own language manifest themselves in adulthood. They affect the way we think and the way we see ourselves. They affect our creative abilities and ability to compete on the global stage. They affect our ability to become a technlogical society. In which case we cannot use science and technology to industrialize and create wealth.

It is therefore obviously evident that learning science, technology, engineering and mathematics in another person's language is dangerous to our existence.


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