Suggestions for the Effective Use of Africa Press in the Middle and High-School Classroom

The Internet provides a wonderful opportunity that was not available to teachers when teaching Africa a few years ago: the ability to access African perspectives on the issues confronting their own countries, peoples, and indeed, the continent as a whole.

As part of this current events page, and on the Other Africa Resources page, we offer you and your students a wide selection of media resources on Africa. In addition to the major U.S. and European press, which occasionally have decent coverage of Africa, we offer links to two important primary news sources: Africa focused news services located in the U.S. (of which Africa On Line is the most comprehensive) and African newspapers on-line. These two sources provide an important opportunity for your students to engage African news stories in more depth than is available in the standard US press.

Of particular importance are the African newspapers on-line. Each year an increasing number of African newspapers are establishing on-line editions of their newspapers. African newspapers provide you and your students with the opportunity to engage African perspectives on stories that impact the lives of citizens of their countries and continent.

The accessibility of African perspectives will open new windows of understanding for you and your students. However, a note of caution is important. Just as is the case for US newspapers, it is important to remember that each African newspaper offers a select perspective—that of its publisher and editorial board. Moreover, for example, a newspaper in Ghana does not offer the Ghanaian perspective, but a Ghanaian perspective.

In addition, it is important to remember that in some African countries there is a single newspaper and such cases the newspaper is most likely controlled by the government or by the ruling political party. Consequently, the perspectives represented in these papers will be that of the governing regime. This factor, however, does not make use of such newspapers invalid for our students. Government controlled papers provide insights into the thinking and mind-set of the respective governments even when its coverage is highly subjective.

Suggested Activity Using African On-Line Newspapers in the 7-12 Classroom

At the beginning of your unit on Africa (or country case study) divide the class into small groups and assign each group with a specific Africa related theme/topic (sports, major domestic political issue, education, health, etc.). Within each small group assign a specific African country to each student.

Throughout the time spent on the Africa unit students will be responsible for searching newspapers from their assigned countries for articles and stories (including editorials, op-ed pieces, and letters to the editor) that relate to their assigned themes.

Each student should develop a thematic journal for their assigned country. Towards the end of the Africa unit you can spend a class period in which each of the thematic groups report on their findings.