Teaching Africa in L.A.'s Schools

UCLA partners with government, nonprofits on Teach Africa. To jump-start the Southern California launch, the sponsors hosted a group of three high school students and three public school teachers on a trip to Uganda this month.

The celebrated Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong'o, the Senagalese ambassador to Washington, a California assemblyman, and other special guests will attend the June 27, 2008, program launch at UCLA.


By Elizabeth Kivowitz

"WHEN BARACK OBAMA tells Americans his father was a Luo from Kenya, how many know about the Luo, or even where Kenya is on the map?" asks UCLA history professor Andrew Apter.

Apter, who directs the James S. Coleman African Studies Center at UCLA, says part of the ignorance stems from the lack of K–12 school curricula on Africa, both in California and throughout the U.S. In an effort to change this, UCLA, the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa, the Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership and the U.S. Agency for International Development are launching the Teach Africa plan in Southern California to promote knowledge of African social, cultural and economic issues and to highlight the continent's major role in the global economy.

The launch will take place at a 6 p.m. dinner event on Friday, June 27, at UCLA's James West Alumni Center and will involve lawmakers, government and nonprofit representatives, students, teachers, principals, school superintendents and others.

The event will encourage superintendents and principals to include more education on Africa in their curricula. The second phase of the program is a teacher training course that offers creative strategies for teaching about Africa in the classroom. The third phase will be a large youth forum aimed at stimulating interest in and thought about Africa.

Teach Africa has already been launched successfully by the Africa Society in cities across the U.S., including San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Houston; Pittsburgh; and Portland, Ore.

To jump-start the Southern California launch, the sponsors hosted a group of three high school students and three public school teachers on a trip to Uganda this month, where they met with students and educators to discuss what schools there should teach their students about the U.S. and what U.S. schools should teach students about Africa.

The Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership documented the trip and will complete a film about the students' and teachers' experiences in August. The film aims to break down stereotypes and preconceived notions and will be used as part of the curricula in both the U.S. and countries in Africa.

Friday's Southern California launch will include appearances by California Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton); Senegalese ambassador to the U.S. Amadou Ba; Andrew Apter; Dr. Sarah Moten, chief of the education division at the USAID Africa bureau; Dr. Gail Ifshin of the Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership; Bernadette B. Paolo of the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa; Noelle LuSane of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations; Ngugi wa Thiong'o, African novelist, activist and director of the International Center for Writing and Translation at the University of California, Irvine; and Michael Nouri, an actor best known for his 1983 role in the movie "Flashdance" and a supporter of Teach Africa.

In addition, five of the six students and teachers who traveled to Uganda will attend the event.   

The dinner event will feature live entertainment, and free educational materials — including geographically correct maps of Africa, the book "The Biography of a Continent" and other learning tools — will be distributed.   

The event is free and open to the public. Attendees should R.S.V.P. to 310-825-3686 or africa@international.ucla.edu.

Media interested in attending the event or in need of more information about the program should contact Elizabeth Kivowitz, UCLA Office of Media Relations, at 310-206-1458 or ekivowitz@support.ucla.edu.

Published: Tuesday, June 24, 2008