Teen disrupts Pan-African debate
Top academics and international scholars debating PanAfricanism and ways to decolonise education were challenged by a teenager, who decried the country’s insufficient funding for education, saying it discriminated against the poor.
Grade 11 student at Lenasia South Secondary School Zandile Kuse grabbed the microphone from an usher at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Arts Centre in Kingsway Campus, where a three-day conference started on Friday and ends today, and vented her frustrations with the “appalling state of education funding” in the country.
Professor Adekeye Adebajo, director of UJ’s Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation, redirected the conference arguing that it merely signalled the beginning of several projects organised by the Institute. The focus on Pan-Africanism history and the decolonisation of education was merely the first of many projects and topics to be discussed in the near future. “Obviously there will be time to look at the youth movements in Africa,” he explained.
The conference reflected on the contribution made by struggle stalwarts and other black international icons such as Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and ANC founders like Pixley ka Isaka Seme to inspire young people, Adebajo said.
About 35 prominent academics of African descent have been billed to share their academic papers as part of debating their relevance in the current discourse. The scholars were from the African continent, the Caribbean, US, Canada and Europe.
Scholars debated the contributions of Seme, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Maya Angelou, Ghana’s first president and prime minister, Kwame Nkrumah, PAC president Robert Sobukwe, former president Thabo Mbeki, US activist Malcolm X, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Frantz Fanon, black consciousness movement leader Steve Biko, musicians Miriam Makeba and Bob Marley, among others.
Present in the audience was President Jacob Zuma’s spokesperson Dr Bongani Ngqulunga, who is also a senior research associate at UJ and has recently penned a biography of one of the ANC’s founders, Seme.
Speakers from the floor highlighted a disjuncture between the historical perspective of Pan-Africanism and the current discourse on funding of tertiary education as well as the decolonisation of syllabuses. Others called for proper historical accounts on PanAfricanism and the African pioneers to include the participation of women in Pan-Africanism, which they argued was glaringly lacking.
Kuse’s comments set a tone for the youth, who accused organisers of sidelining the voice of youth. However, the conference recovered from the negativity raised by the high school pupil and embraced all issues raised even though it had no immediate solutions to the country’s problems.