Yoruba Traditional Education Philosophy in the Evolution of a ‘Total Man’

Ademakinwa Adebisi


Nigeria as a country is blessed with a large number of literate people: scientists, engineers, and so on, yet the manpower needed to harness its enormous resources should be the natural outcome of its education system. The paper reassesses the notion that hinges African economic development on the achievements of its formal education system. The paper, due to this raises some questions among which are: is development best measured with the yardstick of a high percentage of literate youths? Can we read economic achievements into the number of engineers, scientists and etc. that a nation is able to produce? What ethics predominates in the conglomeration of the African elite to influence African development?


Materials are drawn from the rich stock of traditional Yoruba proverbs while two novels by Chinua Achebe’s: No Longer at Ease and T. A. Awoniyi’s Aiye Kooto analyse the ingredients necessary for the creation of a ‘total man’. They also provide veritable socio-political backgrounds for an adequate comparison of the various concept of education churned up in the process.


It was established in this paper that the traditional Yoruba concept of economic development is at variance with the modern concepts since traditionally, Yoruba society placed a high premium on human development as opposed to those we term ‘naira and kobo’ inherent in the modern concept of economic development. The paper symbolizes the failure of the current education system by its products exemplified by the ill-trained and corrupt elite at the helm of affairs in the country. The paper reiterates how Nigerians can maintain a symbiotic African traditional education system and the modern formal one as one of the ways capable of guaranteeing the formation of a ‘total man’. The paper sees the ‘total man’ as the alternative to currently evolved individuals that are ill-trained ethically and mentally to fast-track the development of the African continent on the social, political, and economic fronts.


The importance of this paper rests on its interdisciplinary assessment and use of African cultural perspectives, literature, and myths to analyze the role of culture in African development.




Total man, economic development, omoluwabi, education, training.

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