The Lack of African Knowledge in American Education Shows

The Lack of African Knowledge in American Education Shows

A perspective on why many Americans know little about the continent of Africa, and its diverse regions.

Sidenote: The plot, characters, and generalizations of Africa in this story are fictional, however, the specific news and politics mentioned in it are not.

When I told people that I was going to study abroad in South Africa, everyone thought that I had lost my mind, or ditched in in a ditch.

"Isn't it dangerous?"
"Will you have electricity?"

"Be careful, the Congo's so close to you!"

"Yes, South Africa is, when compared to the US more dangerous, but you've just got to be smart"

"Yes, I'll be living in a city with electricity"

"And the Democratic Republic of the Congo is more than at least 1,000 miles away from where I'm staying".

I was shocked, but also not really shocked by the lack of knowledge that people had about the continent of Africa, nevertheless its large Sub-Saharan region. But when thinking back on my education, I knew why.

"Hi class, so today we are going to be discussing Africa this week!" my middle school teacher announced to the class.

"So, today we are going to be covering Nigeria and Kenya. Then this Friday, we'll be covering the Western French-Speaking region of Africa, called Francophone Africa. Then next Tuesday, we'll be talking about South Africa".

Over those coming weeks, my friends and I at the time listened in-depth of how the British colonized Nigeria and Kenya, the French colonized West Africa, and learned about the Apartheid regime of South Africa. We spent the last day talking about the general local traditions in all of these countries.

"So, did you know that the Zulu do ________ when the weather is not great" my middle school teacher stated.

After she gave an hour lecture on "all" of the local traditions of Sub-Saharan Africa, I rose my hand.

"So, what's happening in Sub-Saharan Africa right now?"

"Well, it's sort of sad really. But many of the countries and their peoples are still poor"


"I don't know really, it's just unfortunate," my teacher said.

Flashing back to the present day, which was only 8 years later, I was looking at the study abroad application.

I then went on a news site to check the news.

All I could read was "Trump did this", and "Trump did that".

I had to click on the "Africa" page to actually see what was going on in Sub-Saharan Africa specifically.

"Xenophobic attacks condemned by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa"

"South African Embassy sign burned in Zambia over recent Xenophobic attacks"


"The Central Africa Republic: The Next Syria"

Yet none of these headlines had made the front page of the new site I was on.

I went to others, and found no mention of this on their news pages.

After 3 hours of thinking and writing, I submitted my study abroad application to South Africa.

When I went outside to relax, I thought about the questions that everyone asked me.

Poverty, no electricity, dangerous? I mean, doesn't almost every region in the world have those things?

As I looked up at the dark navy blue sky, I saw a bright star glimmer up.

About 7 months later in Kruger Park, South Africa, I saw many more.

For Further Reading:

Adebayo "South African president calls for arrest of those involved in xenophobic attacks"

Busari, Swali, Adebayo "South Africa closes embassies in Nigeria, fearing reprisal attacks"

Lister "The Central African Republic faces a Syria-sized crisis"

The New Times "EDITORIAL: An ignorant tweet from Biarritz is a wakeup call to African media"

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