How do we teach about Africa in our schools?

By Hannah, our School Links Coordinator

The conflict in Ukraine has been weighing heavy on many of our minds and I am sure the children and young people in your schools have been searching for explanations. It’s times like these that draw the value of global education into particularly sharp focus; we cannot underestimate the importance of students having a good understanding of other countries and cultures and of their own place in the world.

With this in mind, I would like to draw your attention to a timely report published by the Royal African Society, in conjunction with the APPG for Africa, which encourages teachers to examine the way that we teach about the countries of Africa in schools, APPG Africa: Education Inquiry Report. The report found compelling evidence that school curricula do not reflect the perspectives of those of African descent and where African countries are studied, it is often in an outdated and stereotypical way.

“Africa remains relatively unknown, veiled in stereotypes of impoverished populations, corrupt and incompetent regimes, and safari parks.”

APPG Africa: Education Inquiry Report, March 2022

The report argues that educators have a crucial role to play in challenging the status quo in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. While to a certain extent, curriculum content is prescribed by exam boards and by the National Curriculum, there is still a lot that teachers and school leaders can do to improve how and when African countries such as Ethiopia are learned about. I was particularly interested to read a case study about the history department at St Claudine’s Catholic School in Willesden, NW London. There, three history teachers have developed a curriculum which features the ancient civilisation of Axum in Ethiopia as the very first thing that Year 7 study. Students go on to discover the damaging effects of colonialism on various countries in Africa and they seem to have been able to fully integrate knowledge and understanding of the continent with essential historical enquiry and more conventional aspects of study.

One of the greatest barriers to change is teachers’ subject knowledge. It is my aim that these newsletters and classroom resources empower you all with understanding about Ethiopia, its history and how it is today. We need to consider how we may unwittingly be passing our own stereotypes about Ethiopia on to the next generation. By having a school link, children can see that there are many parallels, and not just differences, between themselves and their friends in their link school. It is only when we acknowledge how little we know that we can get curious about how we can create positive change and move towards a more peaceful and empathetic world.

Our school linking programme invites schools to join us in changing lives through education by engaging young people to learn more about the world around them. A school link is a sustainable partnership between your school and a school in Ethiopia. Each link is a way of developing understanding between international schools through lesson resources, newsletters and shared learning activities.

Together We Learn - Ethiopia