Towards a greater understanding of African Poverty
@garrysimmonsHead of Geography, Bethany SchoolMA student, Institute of Education
“I’d say history is a minor factor.” “The DR Congo – that’s French!” “Africa has very high temperatures which makes it difficult to grow crops” “Education systems are equally poor across Africa with very few universities” “It’s the governments’ fault that African economies are not branching out into secondary, tertiary and quaternary industry”
Lack of knowledge – an opportunity for disjuncture Charles Rawding’s #gaconf12 session on “Keeping up to date with subject knowledge” An interest in learning and wanting to understand how students learn Geog – Constructivism Tony Binns and Etienne Nel’s #gaconf12 session. “Africa: Diversity and development” I realised I knew little about this diverse continent An interest in curriculum making
• Understanding the reasons for the development gap. Why does poverty still exist in the 21st Century?• A focus on African LDCs.
Distance from experienceTrevor Bennetts Attitudes and Complexity(2005): Progress valuesin GeographicalUnderstanding,IRGEE 14:2 Cognitive abilities and skills Progression in Geographical Understanding Abstraction Breadth of Precision contexts Making connections
• Diagram from Potter et al (2012): Key Concepts in Development Geography. London:Sage
• Economics + diversity + politics + history (Depth PLUS breadth)• Tremendous diversity of opinion as evidenced by BBC World debate. Diverse political and academic perspectives• The range of poverty definitions e.g. HDI, GDP, Social indicators, national or individual.
• Case Study of Sixth Form students at my School: 9xL6th and 3xU6th.• Prior knowledge – Written task, Focus group, questionnaire• Sequence of three lessons – Colonial Period, independence, 21st Century Challenges• Post learning – questionnaire, written task, semi- structured interviews.• Analysis of qualitative and quantitative data.
Successes: Understanding clearly improved (Questionnaire 40 to 80% correct responses) Students better understood the exploitative nature of colonialism Students better understood why independence was a false dawn. Students’ misconceptions about climate and natural resources were challenged and overcome
“Western countries are, in a way, what made Africa poor” “You can’t have a stereotyped view of Africa” “I don’t think poverty is caused by one single reason. I think it’s a mixture of multiple ones...each one has a knock on effect.” “LEDCs use oil resources to develop themselves”
Challenges: Environmental determinism is entrenched in many of my students Students didn’t fully understand the debate about the efficacy of foreign aid. Student didn’t fully understand the nature of capital flows. Students only partially grasped the hegemonic influence of economic, political and technical power.
• I didn’t expect the combination of political, historical, economics and geographical diversity to be so challenging for students (and for me).• Due to complexity I wasn’t able to spend enough time on how to bridge the development gap – although I did tentatively look at some of the macro ideas.
• There is still a shocking ignorance about African diversity. Does this ring any bells from other Geography teachers?• Little is known about African places, nations and recent histories. The continent’s marginalisation from globalisation extends to my geography classroom - and perhaps to others as well?• Little is known about the historical colonial period and Britain’s role in the formation of Africa.• Little is known about the real nature of the exploitative economic and political power that exists in the world – this power powerfully shapes human geography.
I (and we?) need to teach more about the ‘dark’ continent. There is an opportunity for some innovative curriculum development at all key stages
• Bennetts, T. (2005) Progression in geographical understanding. IRGEE 14 (2) pp112-132• Binns et al (2012) Africa: Diversity and Development. London: Routledge• Potter et al (2011) Key concepts in Development Geography. London:Sage• Why Poverty.net website• Twitter @GdnDevelopment (Guardian)• Twitter @askwhypoverty
“I feel I am better informed and better educated as a result of these lessons.” “I found having Africa as a case study really helpful” “I believe it’s important to understand why poverty exists in Africa. We need to discuss how to resolve it.” “It’s important because it links in to other things we’ve been learning [synoptic]
Any questions? How would you take this research forward? @garrysimmons – please do get in touch.