Africa: International Cooperation must recognize the African knowledge and overcome historic guilt


Ednéia Golçalves makes an assessment of the right to education in the continent and challenges people to review their own knowledge on the region

Photo: UN Photo/Martine Perret

The recognition of the African knowledge is a global challenge for the right to education; whether they be north-south or south-south, “all cooperations become legitimate when they offer the possibility of exchanging knowledge”, affirms Ednéia Gonçalves. Sociologist and educator, she has been working for more than twenty years with education projects and since 2005 she coordinates the development of technical cooperation projects in the area of education in several African countries.

According to the panelist, who participated in the seminar “The right to education in the global context”, in Africa there is a strong resistance to international cooperation because it is perceived as a set of proposals that are based on the financing of international goals or of transnational companies under a dehumanizing logic of social capital production.

Moreover, the relation with international cooperation established in African countries echoes the recent memory of a colonial past, which is the main identity feature that unifies Africans, in the panelist’s view. “For example, there are Portuguese speaking countries that obtained their independence just thirty five years ago. In this room, for instance, there are people who have lived longer than that.”

However, recognizing the African knowledge implies to overcome the historic guilt stemming from colonization, it implies to overcome the preconceptions about Africa- “in general, as a country of ancestral cultures, not to mention primitive”, she said. “We have to think over our own knowledge about this continent, this is our big challenge”, Ednéia said.. “What do really know about Africa? What are the foundations of those convictions? To what extent do the data we receive on the continent regarding illiteracy, AIDS, poverty, for example, facilitate the understanding of education issues in Africa nowadays?”, she asked.

The daily challenges are many, but she strived to identify the key points that call for a shift in how the rest of the continents view Africa: a) to question the cooperation sense and face the assitentialism currently prevailing in the international financing proposals; b) to expand the concept of democracy and culture of peace in order to build horizontally but also vertically, standing against the totalitarianisms existing in some countries; c) to devise new participation mechanisms while taking into account that in Africa social movements and networks are not able to participate in the many forums due to communication and computerization barriers and lack of contact by land. “It is also essential to have a deeper knowledge on the continent. Africa has lots to teach and trying to know it may help us to overcome our guilt and solve historic bewilderment and nightmares”, she concluded.

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