Preservation and promotion of the culture of indigenous peoples: Sorel Eta’s struggle

In his defense of the Aka culture, Congolese ethnologist Sorel Eta thinks that in addition to deforestation, acculturation and ethnocentrism, there is another threat to this pygmy culture: schooling. In fact, according to him, the educational system put in place to educate the natives carries within it the seeds of true destruction. The Bantus who support it through their associations as well as the natives attracted by modernism seem not to realize it. In other words, keeping thousands of children away from traditional school when they need it to perpetuate their culture is a way to put the cart before the horse. Consequently, Sorel Eta is deeply concerned about the fate of future generations of indigenous children.

He admits that by attending a Western or modern school, Aboriginal children will learn to read, write and speak French. On the other hand, the bad luck lies in the time that this learning takes. By way of illustration, she says, it is enough to imagine the years that a pupil spends, from primary to the end of the secondary cycle, to be convinced of this. “Under these conditions, one wonders when they will learn their traditions when we know that in the forest knowledge is passed on from father to son and in a practical way. Not to mention that acquiring adequate training in the forest takes time “he says.

If, on the modern school side, training takes a long time, the reality could not be different for training at the forest school. The limited time available to Aka students in Western schools is a real obstacle to learning about the world of trees and animals, Sorel Eta points out. Adding that if, in the Western school, the teaching is multidisciplinary, it is not otherwise in the forest school. Aboriginal students are called upon to acquire knowledge in botany, zoology, ethnology, ecology, music and shamanism, for some. They also need to learn forest navigation. The need to know their subsistence economic activities, such as hunting and various gatherings, is no less important. Added to this is the knowledge related to their beliefs. There are so many things that a child must learn to expect in order to become a complete human being, capable of facing life. It is therefore difficult for an Aka child to take both courses at the same time and in a balanced way.

The school in the forest does not deserve to be destroyed

The Congolese ethnologist questions himself on a number of aspects. From his point of view of him, he would prefer forestry school to the Aka. “Since school is the mirror of a culture, it is necessary for an Aka child to learn about the forest, which is almost impossible in old age. It is necessary to absorb these teachings from an early age. So seasoned, even if we teach an Aka further, he will already have had a solid foundation. He will have immersed himself in his own culture, a condition without which he cannot exist according to his values. The opposite, that is, educating him in a Western school from childhood, leads to defeat. It is ruining the chances of assimilating the different disciplines taught at the forest school “means the ethnologist.

Ultimately, Sorel Eta thinks that the forestry school, with its learning methods such as listening, observation and imitation, does not deserve to be destroyed but rather to be preserved and valued. Hence the validity of its mission to tirelessly investigate this school, to better appropriate the quality of the teaching provided. This is the goal he has set himself to make ordinary mortals understand one thing. “We will achieve more by learning from this people than by bringing them to live in our image. Defending this culture remains my stubborn goal. I want to make everyone understand the inestimable value of the forest university. This is why preserving and enhancing the culture of the Pygmy peoples is my battle “He said.

Note that in the preface of the book “ The university of the forest “ by Sorel Eta, Pr Dominique Bourg, great Franco-Swiss ecologist, stressed that among the fundamental points of this book is the insistence on the specific way of producing and sharing knowledge that allows the Aka to live in the forest: it is neither science or its dissemination by schools and universities. A modality that evokes no less spirits. Sophisticated knowledge of which polyphony is a dazzling manifestation.

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