Teen disrupts Pan-African debate

2017-06-18 06:01
Professor Adekeye Adebajo

Professor Adekeye Adebajo

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Top academics and international scholars debating Pan-Africanism and ways to decolonise education were challenged by a teenager, who decried the country’s insufficient funding for education, saying it discriminated against the poor.

Zandile Kuse grabbed the microphone from an usher at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Arts Centre in Kingsway Campus, where a three-day conference started on Friday and ends today, and vented her frustrations with the “appalling state of education funding” in the country.

The Grade 11 student at Lenasia South Secondary School did not engage in historical perspectives and why the country continued to promote Eurocentric education with very little input on African political and socioeconomic issues.

Professor Adekeye Adebajo, director of UJ’s Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation, redirected the conference arguing that it merely signalled the beginning of several projects organised by the Institute.

The focus on Pan-Africanism history and the decolonisation of education was merely the first of many projects and topics to be discussed in the near future.

“Obviously there will be time to look at the youth movements in Africa,” he explained.

The conference reflected on the contribution made by struggle stalwarts and other black international icons such as Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and ANC founders like Pixley ka Isaka Seme to inspire young people, Adebajo said.

About 35 prominent academics of African descent have been billed to share their academic papers as part of debating their relevance in the current discourse.

The scholars were from the African continent, the Caribbean, US, Canada and Europe.

Scholars debated the contributions of Seme, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Maya Angelou, Ghana’s first president and prime minister, Kwame Nkrumah, PAC president Robert Sobukwe, former president Thabo Mbeki, US activist Malcolm X, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Frantz Fanon, black consciousness movement leader Steve Biko, musicians Miriam Makeba and Bob Marley, among others.

African states need to unite 

Former Zimbabwe deputy prime minister Prof Arthur Mutambara said African states needed to unite to survive in the globalised international markets.

A united Africa would be able to attract more investment than individual nations, whose presidents seem to be concerned about the status of their positions.

He said the continent had a population of 1.1 billion, which could be an attractive market if African states were to leverage this as a united community or market rather than being concerned with local economies.

“Let’s understand that under globalisation what matters are numbers and scale,” he said.

Present in the audience was President Jacob Zuma’s spokesperson Dr Bongani Ngqulunga, who is also a senior research associate at UJ and has recently penned a biography of one of the ANC’s founders, Seme.

Speakers from the floor highlighted a disjuncture between the historical perspective of Pan-Africanism and the current discourse on funding of tertiary education as well as the decolonisation of syllabuses.

Others called for proper historical accounts on Pan-Africanism and the African pioneers to include the participation of women in Pan-Africanism, which they argued was glaringly lacking.

Another speaker from the floor said there was a need to focus on solutions rather than repeating studies containing historical challenges of the past.

“We know Africa was robbed and burgled. Let us have a discussion on what we can do about the current challenges,” the speaker said.

Kuse’s comments set a tone for the youth, who accused organisers of sidelining the voice of youth.

However, the conference recovered from the negativity raised by the high school pupil and embraced all issues raised even though it had no immediate solutions to the country’s
problems.

Read more on:    education  |  youth

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