A youth forum sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Houston, The
Africa Society and other groups with an international focus brought
more than 1,500 sixth to 12th grade students together this month
to learn more about Africa. But one of the things they learned is that
it is not easy to develop a simple concept for such a large and diverse
The purpose of the Teach Africa Youth Forum was to
expose students to the real continent of Africa and its many countries
and peoples as opposed to the somewhat distorted idea they might get
from the news media or popular culture.
Ambassador encourages dialogue
Among those on hand to provide perspective was Angola's ambassador to the United States, Josefina Diakete.
we talk about Africa it is really important to keep talking and
talking and engaging so that, at the end of the day, we will succeed in
terms of changing perceptions about the continent," she explained.
of the perceptions organizers of the forum stressed was that Africa is
a huge, diverse continent that cannot be easily fit into one
"There are 54 countries in Africa. There are over 2,000 languages in Africa. There is an extreme diversity in
Africa that our students, unless they go out and seek the information,
just are not getting and this is why we have Teach Africa," explained
Jomo Bellard, who is with the Africa Society, a sponsor of the event.
Forums engage student discussions
part of the planning for the event, students from some schools prepared
poster displays about various African nations, showing the variety of
climates, terrains, cultures and resources contained by this very large
Some student participants, like Barry Authenreith
came to the forum with little knowledge of Africa beyond some general
impressions about cultures in different nations.
"Their religion, their customs, their dances and music," he noted.
is one of the many students who thinks of going to Africa mainly to see
pyramids in Egypt or wildlife in the large parks of Kenya, Tanzania or
South Africa. At the Teach Africa Forum instructors tried to engage
students in discussions about Africa's resources and the potential its
nations hold as a trading partners.
Economic situation intrigues some
Crystal Bain is planning to
go to Africa with a missionary group later this year and she was
intrigued by presentations on the economic condition of many African
"It posed a few questions about trade with Africa,
detriments and benefits. It made you kind of think about what you can
do to help or what you should not do to help," she said.
presenting the economic picture for the students was Gregory Rehmke,
who operates an educational company called Economic Thinking out of
"I am encouraging students to read books
and follow up and study these issues and the best they could do for
Africa and for themselves is become an entrepreneur or businessman
doing trade and investment in Africa. There are huge opportunities
there," he said.
Student finds forum helpful
One student who brought some special
perspective to Rehmke's class on economics in Africa was 14-year-old
Loyce Gayo, who came here from Tanzania two years ago. She says this
forum was very helpful.
"For example, the stereotypes: It kind
of helps students here get more understanding on what Africa really is
and my country, Tanzania," said Loyce.
Gregory Rehmke says
students from Africa like Loyce are in a unique position to help
American students better understand Africa and the world in general.
is so great for American students to have international students in
their class. The students here learn more about Africa from a classmate
who is African than they ever could from a book or in a classroom," he
This daylong forum was part of a multi-phase program that
included workshops for teachers on how to raise awareness of Africa in