Make an effort to understand the real Africa

Pearl Chan
Pearl Chan |

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By Pearl Chan, The Bishop Strachan School

The missing continent in our education . . . Oh, Africa, the country where all the poor children are. I donate money every now and then, but do I know anything about the people?

Well, let's see. They were slaves . . . something about cotton plantations and underground railways. That's not Africa? Oh, you're right, that was in the States and Canada. I don't mean to sound racist or anything, but the people are black. It's really nice there, a lot of space, and giraffes. People wear really colorful clothes. And many are dying of Aids. Is there more to know?

Africa is a continent, not a country. In fact, Africa has 61 territories, 53 of which are countries. When the Europeans discovered what a gold mine Africa was at the end of the 19th century, they quickly claimed land. For young countries such as Germany, it was invaluable as they had not yet established a large kingdom.

In 1884-1885, the superpowers of the day sat down in the Berlin Conference, took a pen and drew borders that suited their taste. These imaginary borders grouped together people of different ethnicity, religion and language. When independence was granted, many African countries were merely countries because they had to be. One example is Sudan. The Arabs in the north and the Christians in the south were ruled as separate colonies. When independence was granted, they drew a neat border around the region and called it Sudan. Within that border there's Darfur. But what's it all about?

Our economies are interlinked, and the planet is ours to maintain or destroy. Never have a generation travelled, traded or communicated so widely. We can no longer claim to be educated without knowledge of some sort about every corner in the world. To emerge from your education unable to find most countries on a world map is a failure.

Many people preach to stop violence, war, ignorance and indifference. To fight these problems, we first need to understand how they came into existence. Educating children is supposed to pull them out of poverty, but how can you pull someone out of poverty only to throw them back into a country overturned by turmoil and cruelty? We need to address these problems, and the only way to do so is to understand them. Read up on the continent and the diverse, unique cultures it holds.

The map of Africa will continue to change. Borders will continue to shift. Right now, Nigeria is facing a separatist movement. Our Eurocentric education fails to include these important aspects of the world and it is therefore left to you. Do you care enough about our world to educate yourself? Or are you too busy to care? The choice is yours to make.

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