A False Perception of Africa: By Cadet Abigail O’Connell
This summer I had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania Africa with the ROTC Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency program. We taught conversational English to Tanzanian students, answered questions about ourselves and American culture, and experienced a few educational moments of our own.
Since the beginning of slave trade, people have perceived Africa as being a wild and crazy country without any structure or organization. Since the birth of widespread media, such as newspaper, radio, and television, this perception of Africa has increased among people of western culture.
While having some one-on-one time with a few members of the staff at Makongo Secondary School, in Dar es Salaam Tanzania I was asked by one of the staff members, Charles, how America perceives Africa. I told him that people don’t see Africa as I see Tanzania.
I see Tanzania as a country that has been placed between a developed and developing country. With recent changes that the Tanzanian government has made, this country has taken significant strides towards becoming a country and a society which functions at its own norm. This is contrary to what I see on the news in America, which would lead us to believe that Africa is bathed in poverty, lacking in knowledge, and corrupt with civil unrest and chaos.
Having said that, such could easily be the case in other parts of Africa, but from what I have seen in Tanzania people live comfortably, students are able to learn in a manner that rivals their Western counterparts, and the society in Tanzania follows their government regardless of political doctrine. These are a proud people, who are comparable with the patriots of America.
After a long day of teaching, I sat down at the lunch table and started to eat my rice and beans when the topic came up again. This time, I was able to discuss the issue with the assistant head of the English Department, Chaderack. He told me that, “Americans watch and believe only what the news tells them about Africa. They only see the bad of Africa and they are ignorant to what it really is like.”
After seeing Tanzania, I know that I didn’t have full perception of the whole entire continent, just one country. Before coming to Tanzania, I am not going to lie; I was ignorant to what I was going to see. I originally thought that I was going to come to a country that consisted of unsophisticated and uneducated people who were stricken with poverty. When I got to see what the country consisted of, I saw that it was very similar to America.
In my opinion, a majority of the people that I met, adults and students included, were so well educated and so intelligent, that it left my fellow Cadet instructors, Derek Littlejohn of Purdue University, Daniel Kirkendall of St. Leo University and I completely shocked and totally satisfied with their performance.
Tanzania is a country that functions comfortably on the structure and organization that has been established. It isn’t an illiterate country that consists of savage bloodshed and violence, as the news tends to perceive it as being. It is a country that is rich in culture and tradition.
Sounds like America doesn’t it?