UNESCO flagships place education and history at the centre of Africa’s transformation

Education and history at the centre of Africa’s transformation

Learning about history is essential to understanding ourselves. ‘Many of us are seeking our identity without reflecting on the key elements in African history,’ asserted Afro-Cuban singer and songwriter Eme Alfonso at an event on UNESCO’s Priority Africa programme organized during the Transforming Education Pre-summit in Paris on 30 June. ‘I would have loved to learn more about the history of my ancestors, not only how they arrived in America, but also their kingdoms, customs, communities and glory to make me more complete. And I would love for my children to understand all aspects of their identities.’

Ms. Alfonso joined her voice with those of more than 250 participants, including Ministers of Education from countries in Africa and those with African diasporas, to discuss UNESCO’s Priority Africa and two related flagship initiatives – the General History of Africa and Campus Africa.

Priority Africa today is not only the matter of Africans but the matter of everyone. We want to look at the positive side of things – an integrated Africa with a positive image and actively contributing to the construction of the planet.
Firmin Edouard Matoko, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Priority Africa and External Relations

The General History of Africa, an initiative launched in 1964 and presented in an opus of eight volumes, recognizes the need for a new authentic African narrative based on common heritage, languages and reconstructing history freed from racial prejudices linked to the slave trade and colonization. The initiative, now being further updated with new volumes in the works, calls for educational and cultural transformation embodied in the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the Charter for African Cultural Renaissance as well as the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The ideas of Pan-Africanism and the African renaissance need to be embedded in education systems in Africa in order to reimagine, transform and evolve
Janice Gugulethu Khumalo, Lead of Youth Engagement work in the Women, Gender and Youth Directorate of the African Union Commission

Several experiences and good practices in this direction were shared at the meeting. Kenya highlighted the General History of Africa’s integration in national curriculum for formal, non-formal and informal learning since 2017. Representatives from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan also emphasized the importance of adaptation into national curriculum, teacher training and relevant research.

It is great to look into the African history by the Africans and re-narrate its history to the world of what it was and what it can be in the future. We need to transform our promises into actions.
H.E. Fanta Mandefro, State Minister for General Education of Ethiopia

As part of this flagship to mainstream the General History of Africa into curricula, UNESCO plans to produce guidance tools and teaching resources, and make them available on digital platforms. 

Alongside the need to value the continent’s histories, cultures and identities in education, achieving Agenda 2063 - and the 2030 Agenda - requires higher education institutions that can produce the knowledge and skills to deliver on its transformational goals. The Campus Africa flagship has the ambition to connect universities across the continent, increase opportunities and expand collaboration. First presented at UNESCO’s General Conference in November 2021 and now in its design phase, this flagship will focus on connected research and  innovation, TVET to meet the demands of the green and digital transitions and promoting the recognition of qualifications.

Our education system must help to liberate and decolonize our thinking, and to instill pride in us. Connecting and uniting minds and hearts is at the very foundation of education, as such exchange programmes among African campuses must be encouraged to build solidarity among Africans to tackle the common challenges of the continent.
Ghanaian poet and playwright Chief Moomen

UNESCO is fully committed to supporting Member States in promoting and further mainstreaming the General History of Africa and offering technical assistance for policy design and implementation of Campus Africa.

Ministries of Education have a crucial role in advancing this vision of the General History of Africa as a way of repositioning the past, providing a deeper understanding of the present, and laying the foundations for an optimistic and active future for the younger generations. Together, we can only do this by engaging the diversity of voices and actors coming from the whole range of educational and societal stakeholders.
Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education

The high-level breakfast meeting was jointly convened by UNESCO Priority Africa and External Relations Sector and the Education Sector on 30 June 2022 at UNESCO Headquarters during the Transforming Education Pre-Summit on the theme of ‘Transforming Africa through education and the valuing of its history’.