African History Must Be Promoted In Modern Higher Education
Teaching of the General History of Africa (GHA) has been described as very crucial, which needed distinct promotion and harmonization to imbibe the continent’s past heritage in students of modern higher education.
Another objective is to extract common content for syllabuses and textbooks, targeting three age groups from under 12 years old, 13 to 16 years old and 17 to 19 years old while improving teacher training for a renewed approach towards the teaching of history.
This, according to the Deputy-General of UNESCO, Getachew Engida is intended to “re-appropriate a history that for too long has been ignored, rejected or distorted.”
Addressing participants currently attending a four-day Regional Conference on the Pedagogical Use of the General History of Africa in Higher Education at Elmina in Ghana, Mr. Engida added that the project also sought to deconstruct lingering prejudices with the proposition of new interpretations to demonstrate the diversity of African peoples and the common ground they shared.
Elmina is located in the Central Region of Ghana with very rich slave history. It was the first settlement for the Portuguese in West Africa.
History has it that Elmina grew around Sao Jorge da Mina Castle, built by the Portuguese Diogo de Azambuja in 1482 on the site of a town or village called Amankwakurom or Amankwa. It was Portugal’s West African headquarters for trade and exploitation of African wealth.
The original Portuguese interest was gold but this later expanded to include tens of thousands of slaves channeled through the trading post of Elmina.
The UNESCO boss further alluded that the GHA project was guided by a single powerful vision that “Africa’s history cannot be reduced to a series of conquests and wars. This is a story of civilization and societies; a story of their deep and continual exchange with the rest of the world.”
In addition, he mentioned “this is a history of the continent seen from within, through archival resources, archaeological discoveries and documents of oral tradition.”
Some 350 historians and experts under the International Scientific Committee (ISC) had produced eight volumes of the GHA in English, Arabic and French. Other selected volumes were translated into 13 languages and abridged version in English, French and Kiswahili as well as Fulfulde and Hausa.
Mr. Engida stressed that the project, which further sought to support regional understanding, integration and peace between Africa and learners in other parts of the world was relevant to the establishment of the International Decade for People of African Descent, spanning from 2013 to 2022 as declared by the UN General Assembly.
Speaking on behalf of the Vice president of Ghana, Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, the Minister of Tourism Elizabeth Ofosu-Agyare stated that history, peace, security and the development of continental and Diasporic Africans should work in tandem.
And “judging from the experience in Ghana, there is the need for strong political will at various levels of government and the educational sector to encourage a revised teaching and learning of the subject,” he indicated.
To him, the country was prepared to share lessons learnt from the work of the Historical Society of Ghana on how to make the teaching of history more effective and efficient.
“We as Africans and people of African descent need to reexamine some of the received wisdom through intense interactions among academic and other stakeholders at various levels with the intention to build on the critiques provided by the GHA and to open new path that will integrate the youth in this enterprise,” he urged.
Ghana’s Minister of Education, Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang also noted that it was incumbent on all intellectuals to take up the study of the GHA.
According to her, gaining basic understanding of Africans on the continent and away from it and their history, which has global impacts, was imperative to a more comprehensive and fuller appreciation of what the world had become. And also figure out how to begin to truly and wholly grasp its implications.
She assured organizers and participants that the outcome of the conference would be an indispensable chip in the material of UNESCO’s main mission of building peace in the minds of men and women.
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