Educating Our Children The Sacred African Way: Four More “R’s”

Posted on May 30, 2016 by


Educating Our Children The Sacred African Way:

Four More “R’s” For African Excellence & Greatness

By Brother Mxolisi Ozo-Sowande / T. Sowell Jr.

The removal or severe compromise of our African “4R’s” relative to the educational process for Black students in the U.S. (and other places throughout the world) goes a long way toward explaining the so-called “achievement gap” that gets much publicity when it comes to our standings in this society’s educational systems.

We know about the three “R’s” (reading, ‘riting & ‘rithmetic) and Common Core curriculum. And we know that under the proper circumstances Black students can do as well as any others, when it comes to achieving excellent results in those subject areas – and more. But the proper circumstances include four additional “R’s” that are sorely lacking in far too many so-called educational settings in this society’s school systems. Additionally, the absence of understanding and diligent, militant advocacy and involvement on the parts of parents and leaders of the communities from which our students come, relative to the additional 4R’s, leaves them far too often in the midst of seriously improper circumstances. Pipeline-to-prison, poverty and dysfunction circumstances.


Right here, the following words of Dr. MLK seem exceptionally appropriate:black ed 3

“I am for equality. However, I think integration in our public schools is different. In that setting, you are dealing with one of the most important assets of an individual — the mind. White people view black people as inferior. A large percentage of them have a very low opinion of our race. People with such a low view of the black race cannot be given free rein and put in charge of the intellectual care and development of our boys and girls.”

~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 4R’s that were/are essential in African education are Respect, Responsibility, Ritual and Relationship. These 4R’s are brought to light in ASAR Dr. Chancellor Williams’ study of the traditional African Age-Grade system for the education of African youth.


black ed 8In his great work, The Destruction of Black Civilization, Dr. Williams pointed out that Lineage Ties and responsibilities, and the Age-Grade System, were the profound institutions for the stability of early African civilizations. The Lineage Ties was the foundation which allowed the people to know themselves as kinfolk, descendants of the same “great” ancestral personalities or families; to know and respect one another as brothers and sisters from the cradle to the grave, from before and beyond. And the legends and myths arising from that consciousness served to influence their concepts of both royalty and divinity. It served to promote cooperative inter-personal and communal networking. It was “the most powerful and effective force for unity and stability in early Africa, and this was so true that a state could be self-governed without the need for any one individual as ruler, chief or king . . . because just about everyone knew the Customary laws.”


Clearly, the sense of royalty, divinity and Relationship which Lineage Ties consciousness implanted in the black ed 5hearts, minds and souls of our great ancestors was nurtured and celebrated (Respected & Ritualized) every day, in every aspect of life — from cradle to grave, from before and beyond. And clearly, consistent with the widely held Pan-African wisdom which views a child as an incomplete being until he or she has been taught the ways of their people, the nurture and fruition of this consciousness in every cell and fiber of every African child, and the 4R’s that are given life by that consciousness, was/is a priority for African stability, excellence and greatness. And clearly, it was/is the Responsibility of parents to be the first teachers and examples of this consciousness for the children, preparing them to engage (Relate to) individuals of the community and the world with the appropriate sense of royalty and divinity, and the pursuit of excellence which that consciousness commands.

The 4R’s embodied within the Lineage Ties orientation provided foundation for the Age-Grade System which was, according to Dr. Williams, “the specific organizational structure through which the society functioned.” No doubt the dynamics of the interactions of these two institutions impacted even the youngest African child as he or she, swaddled securely to their mother, experienced marketplace vibrations and other social interactions in which their mother engaged. Beyond this stage, these elements were also woven into the “pre-school” activities (games) the youngsters played.

Around 6-7 years of age the children were introduced to domestic chores, as play began to be diminished. They were also introduced to “primary education” – mental arithmetic, learning to identify and deal with the various elements of their environment (opportunities, challenges & dangers), as well as unifying community songs, dances and story-telling that serve to impress upon them and celebrate the realities of their brother-sister relationships. As the youngsters grew older they were assigned age-appropriate domestic chores – gathering firewood, bringing water, tending cattle, feeding chickens, tending younger siblings — and exposure to village council meetings.

black ed 4These “childhood” level experiences served to prepare the youths for “teenage” level challenges, when play time was either over or very much limited, when preparation for manhood and womanhood initiations around 18 years of age became the priority. Extended family history, communal and national history, inter-communal and international relationships, rapid calculations, bartering, good manners and setting leadership examples for the younger students, and exposure to virtually every aspect of functional community and nation – agricultural, economic, political, military, livestock breeding and care, and more – were on the curriculum for the teenage level.

These exposures served to help the youths discover the vocation for which they wanted to dedicate themselves and receive training under their apprenticeship system. Additionally, there was training about being successful spouses, including insights relative to marital intimacy. Through it all there was poetry, music and dance serving to nurture and celebrate the kinship consciousness of their collective existence — preparing them for initiation into Adulthood.

Dr. Williams concluded: “These early Black societies were in many ways far in advance of the modern.” 

black 4This sort of consciousness is woefully absent in far too many African lives, throughout the World African Community – Motherland & Diaspora, individuals & households, extended families & communities, etc. It certainly is non-existent in the public school systems that our children attend. And clearly, if it is to be recovered and restored, updated and re-instated it must be through us doing all we can, in every way we can, to teach and exemplify that we are sons and daughters of the first people of the earth — from Nubia to Sudan to Ethiopia to Kemet, the most imaginative, creative, productive and spiritual people humanity has ever known. If that lineage is to be of royal and divine service to our children (our future), and serve to prepare them for the challenges and rewards of life, it must be seen by them in its service to us and through us – parents, elders, leaders. In our words and in our deeds!!!

Additionally, there is this observation in the work of Rhonda Baynes Jeffries, relative to educational experiences in our Black schools, prior to “desegregation” of public schools in the U.S.   (African American Teaching and the Matriarchal Performance):

“ . . the matriarchal tradition was a ‘performance’ upon which teachers (and administrators) drew in helping their students get prepared for classes and life in school” . . . Including financial support. They made home visits; participated in molding students’ lives, along with their parents; were partners in preparing and protecting students from pitfalls and dangers in the society.

One who benefitted from the consciousness and dynamics of that experience gave this reflection:black ed 9

“Mainly, what I found in the teachers I encountered was a more nurturing role. I felt like when I left home, I did not leave mom and dad, because when I got to school I had another mom or dad. And it went that way through high school, it was basically like a small community. Everybody knew everybody, and practically everybody knew everybody’s parents and family. And anything you would do at school, by the time you go home, you got it again. So it was a community effort. Everybody jumped in.”


Let’s give thanks for the growing number of Black parents and families (in the U.S., the Motherland, and throughout our Diaspora) who are awakening to the realities embodied in Dr. King’s words and are taking charge of the education of their children – our children — through homeschooling and/or African–centered educational programs and institutions. For in these settings the consciousness and dynamics of the Lineage Ties & Age-Grade systems are being employed, with students, parents, teachers, et al,   reaping the benefits and joys.

Black homeschooling 3It is of the utmost importance for each of us to do all we can, in every way we can, to get this Educational Revolution up to full force throughout our families and communities. Every church, fraternity, sorority and community organization with substantial numbers of members ought to have a school or be part of a network that operates schools or programs:


  • where the consciousness and dynamics reflected here are religiously employed;
  • where Respect, Responsibility, Ritual and Relationship are woven into every thought and action;
  • where the appropriate sense of royalty and divinity, and the pursuit of excellence which our most-fulfilling future commands are implanted in the hearts, minds and souls of every boy and girl;
  • where the genius potential of every child is honored and nurtured by every teacher and administrator, parent and elder who participate.

The intellectual care and development of our girls and boys, and the quality of life for our future generations awaits our diligence! ~~ Let’s all jump in!!