IMPACT OF THE COLONIAL POLICIES ON THE YOUTH IN NGUGI WA THIONG’O’S WEEP NOT, CHILD.”

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Friday, 3rd August, 2012

On this Friday 3rd of August 2012, I am honored to sit in front of you to present you my academic work in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of the degree: “Licence en langues et littératures Anglaises”, and it is intitled: “THE IMPACT OF THE COLONIAL POLICIES ON THE YOUTH IN NGUGI WA THIONG’O’S WEEP NOT, CHILD.”

Man is by nature materially egocentric, and his selfishness increases particularly when opportunities favouring the accumulation of wealth occur. Man then, through a policy, always finds arguments and justifications that fit their needs and deeds. In our work, we have been concerned with colonialism set in Kenya, as presented by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o in his novel entitled: Weep Not, Child.

This work aims at making an analysis of the socioeconomic forces created by the colonial policies as presented by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o in his novel Weep Not, Child . The analysis carried out through this work has attempted to show how the youth that Ngugi describes as the future and the saviours of the Kenyans were victims of the colonial policies while he wrote his novel Weep Not Child. The policy of land alienation has been the most determinant in Kenya at the level of causing a war: the Mau Mau War. This work further analyses the behaviour and the resentment of the Kenyans towards that colonial policies and emphasises on the wars, that is, the World War I and II, and the Mau Mau War. All of them have contributed to the distabilization of Kenya and the victimisation of the youth, physically and psychologically. Since the problem seem to be shared by most African countries, this work tries to show a wayout of overcoming the socioeconomic struggles that hinder the progress of African countries and darken the youth’s good dreams.

On the advent of the colonizers, Kenyan people have undergone very hard times. First, the colonists started by dividing the people into tribes, each tribe living on a separate area. That was the policy of divide and conquer. This policy has been followed by the lost of land for the Kenyans, by the time the building of the railway began. To help make the new railway profitable, the colonial government encouraged the settlement of European farmers in Kenya. After 1902 white people (mostly from Britain and South Africa) took up residence in the highlands. Land for European settlement meant the loss of land for some of Kenya’s peoples, most notably the highland-dwelling Kikuyu. Many of the Kikuyu who lost land were forced to move onto European farms and estates as squatters and laborers, or to seek employment in urban areas such as Nairobi. By the time World War I ended in 1918, European settlers, desiring inexpensive farm labor, had convinced the colonial government to adopt measures that essentially forced Africans to work the farms. These included new, higher taxes on Africans, who, lacking money, were obligated to work the settlers’ farms in order to pay them. By this time, the settlers had achieved considerable political influence in the territory, which was changed to a colony and renamed Kenya in 1920. The colony of Kenya was administered by a British governor, who was advised by an elected Legislative Council. Black Africans were not allowed to vote and were denied representation in the council until the mid-1940s, when a small number of blacks were nominated to the council.

The lost of land, the wage of taxes and other restrictions provoked Kenyans to revolt. Thus, the Mau Mau Movement broke out in 1952 in a bloodly, seemingly hopeless battle with handmande weapons against the might of the colonial regime. In the kind of contradiction, much of the Western press portrayed them as thirsty savages on the one hand and crafty agents of communism on the other. To Africans in Kenya, they have come to be known as the Land Freedom Army, and in retrospect it is clear that their apparently suicidal assult on the colonial regime was in fact a turning point on the road to Kenya’s Independance.

It is this context that pushed Ngugi Wa Thiong’o to write his novel Weep Not, Child as a response. Weep Not, Child, Ngugi’s first novel that has captured our attention in our study deals with the relationships between Africans and the British colonists in Africa and is heavily critical of British colonial rule. Through Weep Not, Child, we have explored the theme of war where the Mau Mau uprising and the bewildering dispossession of an entire people from their ancestral land has been tackled with special interest. To epitomise the victimisation of the youth, all classes combined, Ngugi uses the characters of Njoroge and Mwihaki, both from different classes. Their good dreams about a happy life are destroyed by the socioeconomic forces, causing depression on some young people like Njoroge who lastly attempted a suicide.

In our study, we have worked on the hypothesis that the colonial policy has been of much consequences, and especially on the youth. It is true that it has been harsh to all categories of the people and directly, but moreover, the youth looked upon as the saviour of the society suffered twice: physically and psychologically, which is more dangerous. Their hope founded on school has been for many of them destroyed for they were evicted from school while it was like a sacrifice because of poverty due to the lost of the land. Other young people such as Njoroge, Mwihaki and Stephan lost their parents through the wars, the Mau Mau War.

The Marxism approach has been our reference. The Marxism Approach is based on the theories of the German philosopher, social scientist and economist named Karl Marx. He was helped by Friedrich Engels, also a social scientist and journalist. Marxism is a theory essentially historical and political. In The Communist Manifesto – the only work viewed as a statement of the theories that became known as Marxism – Marx and Engels assert that history is a series of conflicts between classes. On the theory of class struggle, Marx discusses that all history is marked by a persistent struggle between the ruling class – the Bourgeoisie – and the working class – the Proletariat. He adds that past societies tried to keep the exploited class under control by using elaborate political organization and institutions such as religion (thesis). Marx reasons that by recognizing these forces, the oppressed class will be able to overcome them through a revolutionary action (antithesis). The resulting situation will be then a classless society (vitual synthesis).

These theories were developed especially to analyse how society functions where there is constant change. The Marxism Approach believes that Philosophy is meant to be used as a tool to bring about change.

The capitalist system caused the alienation of the workers, therefore causing them not to be able to live to the fullest. The Marxism Approach points that capitalist system would eventually cause the proletarians to rise up against the upper classes in a bloody revolt and replace the system with a communist one.  Marx mainly focused on economics, particularly the material forces of production, distribution, exchange, and consumption.

The applicability of this literary approach on the analysis of Weep Not, Child resides in the fact that most of aspects of Marxist approach are reflected in Ngugi’s society. It is clear that, in Kenya, the colonists behaved as dominant class. Commenting on this, Leo notes in Land and Class in Kenya that “upon arriving in Kenya, Europeans had taken their pick of the fertile, well-watered highlands, as well as some drier land for ranching” (Leo 4). The Africans propelled from those lands were confined to reserves. “Each one consisted of a block of land reserved for an African ethnic group… and the reserves constituted the reserve of labour, often by pressure and sometimes by out-and-out force”. (Leo 4-5) Thus, there is an open class struggle in the oppressed Africans strive to resist European domination. The resistance is collective through the Mau Mau Movement which broke out in 1952, signalling the beginning of the end for that system.

This work examines how the youth are in most of the cases victims of what they are not responsible as reflected in Weep Not, Child. Extensively, it looks into characters and themes, how Njoroge, the main character has behaved towards the socio-political situation he was facing like other young people. The determination he had, that is, to get educated so that he is able to save his family, and farther his country is that of any patriotic and responsible young, and it is the kind of youth Ngugi wants to bring up, and it is also what any reasonable nation would stick to produce.

From the advent of colonialism in Africa to the battle for independence is the scope of this work. It consequently has a particularity from other works in that it focuses on the youth, a category seemingly forgotten but victim of all kinds of pledges and at the same time, being the hope for any nation.

Worth significance, the analysis in this work will stimulate further researchers on the issue of youth conditions. They would like to quest the way the youth should be treated with justice to raise a just, peaceful and progressive society that any of us aspires to.

This work is composed of five parts. The general introduction, three chapters and a general conclusion. The general introduction presents an overview of the whole work. The first chapter – Problems of land in Kenya – treats of the land alienation, where the concept of land in general, and the concept of land for Kenyans in particular as presented in Weep Not, Child is higlightened. It further evaluates the colonial policies on the land in Kenya, and the focus is put on the land alienation and the exploitation of workers and the impact of those policies on the youth.

The second chapter – The Impact of Wars on the Youth – is concerned with the Wars: the First and the Second World Wars and the Mau Mau War, then their impact on the youth as pictured in Weep Not, Child. The third chapter then emphasises on Ngugi’s view on the youth, and highlights the image of the youth as victims of socio economic forces; the youth as dreamers, and the youth as saviours, as Weep Not, Child shows it. The conclusion is a synthesis of the major arguments in the work. Justifying the hypothesis, it brings out findings and suggests recommendations for further researchers.

If the youth of Ngugi’s era (when he wrote Weep not, Child and some of other works) suffered from colonialism and its policies; the contemporary youth are suffering from the neocolonialism. The neocolonialism is a new form of colonialism, as stated above, and presented by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o in Devil on the Cross. Leaders of our era sometimes behave like the colons, treating on the ground their brothers and sisters as painted in Ngugi’s Devil on the Cross, and the wise man can simply say “that shoe is a perfect fit for the foot…no need for any socks” (Ngugi 86). Before the end of our presentation, we address you the following recommendations:

1. To the youth:

-          As the future is theirs, they should plan it

-          They should get united and cooperate for a bright tomorrow, and most important,

-          They should stick to education which is the key to the success of any of their plans.

2. To the leaders:

-          They should avoid disorienting the youth

-          They should avoid galvanizing the youth

-          They should stick to the moderation of the society on the idea of justice to allow the birth of just citizens

3. The government should treat the governed equally and avoid injustice that leads to frustration and frustration to violence.

A bright future, a peaceful world will never be conquered if the new generation is not engaged to promote it. They ought to withdraw from the ill-intentions and all manipulations of the false leaders that call them to violence to their private interests and destroy their future, their life. Meanwhile, the youth need the support of the elders. Good parents still exist. They should encourage the youth by sharing experiences of their past and show them the right way and cooperate to the good construction of a lively world prompt to the progress of our Nations, of our world. And when there is a will there is a way, and determination is the key to success.

Thank you for your attention!!!

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