African voices celebrated in Leeds primary schools
Six students from Nigeria and Ghana, on a range of postgraduate degree programmes at Leeds Beckett, have been taking part in the African Voices project. The aim is to get children to question pre-conceived notions of African life and to share with them the richness and diversity of the continent from the perspective of ambitious and successful African people.
Teli Doibo, an MA Human Resource Management student from Nigeria and participant in the programme, explained: “Sharing with the UK children what life really is like in Africa is important. This is because most times the media portray Africa in a negative light: showing videos of hungry children, famine and poverty. The reality is that Africa also has beautiful cities, schools and wealthy people.
“The children were very surprised to learn there are black and white Africans and that a Nigerian business man (Aliko Dangote) is richer than the Queen of England. They were also surprised to learn from our Fair Trade activity that cocoa farmers in Africa earn very little money from the cocoa that they grow and that the UK government earns more money from the cocoa trade than they do.”
This is the first time that the programme has been run by Leeds Beckett, having been established by Project Coordinator, Richard Borowski, at the University of Leeds in 2004. So far, Leeds Beckett has delivered the programme at Hillcrest Academy, Little London Community Primary School and Grange Farm Primary School and it will be extended to further schools over the summer.
Collaborative Outreach Coordinator at Leeds Beckett, Will Atkinson, commented: “As well as getting children to challenge prejudices and pre-conceptions about Africa, our African students are acting as role models, encouraging the pupils to aspire to go to university and overcome any barriers they might face.”
Alongside spending time with a class within the primary school, getting to know the pupils and teaching them about their lives in Africa, the students are running fun activities. These have so far included: learning about students’ native food and planning menus; designing outfits using traditional clothing patterns; and an ‘Africa or Not’ activity where children looked at photographs and had to guess whether or not the photo was taken in Africa.
Rachael Blacker, a year four class Teacher at Little London Community Primary School in Leeds, said: “MSc Project Management student Olayemi Williams from Nigeria spent a day with our class and the children thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They were constantly completing practical activities and learnt a lot from the workshop. Yemi did extremely well and engaged the children for the whole day, which is a hard task! I would recommend him to other schools most definitely.”
Since 2007, the Leeds University Centre for African Studies (LUCAS) Schools Project has recruited and trained over 100 African postgraduates from 17 different countries who have collectively delivered African Voices activity days to over 10,000 pupils in more than 80 different primary schools in Leeds.
Richard said: “Young people have very little accurate knowledge about Africa and its peoples. Their perceptions are distorted by charity campaigns that utilise images of helpless women and children to generate compassion and solicit donations and news stories that focus on natural disasters, conflict, disease and poverty. In addition, documentaries about Africa focus on the exotic, wild animals and traditional culture, which emphasise difference and instil in young people a sense of otherness. There is little or no recognition in the portrayal of the urban, industrial and technological aspects of the continent or the accomplishments of African people.”
Image Front row, L-R: Ulanda Nyirenda, Olayemi Williams, Sepo Sitali, Telimoipre Doibo, Inder Hunjan MBE; Back Row, L-R: Richard Borowski, Nurudeen Lawan, Ademola Omole, Will Atkinson