Teaching history could address negative stereotypes in society – UN recommends

DPI, GUYANA, Saturday, October 7, 2017

Making history lessons mandatory in schools could help address negative stereotypes and stigmas, a UN Working Group recommends.

The United Nation’s Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (WGPAD) yesterday presented its preliminary findings and recommendations on a fact-finding mission it has concluded over the last week.

Members of the WGPAD (from left to right) Ahmed Reid, Chair, Sabelo Gumedze and Michal Balcerzak.

The Working Group assessed the human rights situation of people of African descent living in Guyana through discussions with government and civil society members in Georgetown, Linden, and Buxton from October 2-6.

Chair of the WGPAD, Sabelo Gumedze, raised the Group’s concern that Guyana’s curricula did not “accurately reflect the history and contributions of people of African descent in Guyana”.

The preliminary report recommended the revision and development of a specific curriculum and corresponding teaching materials that “respect and recognise history, including the transatlantic trade in Africans”. It further recommended incorporating the curricula into the formal and informal education at all levels be made mandatory.

WGPAD member Ahmed Reid noted that the teaching of history in this context is important. “An understanding of one particular group’s contribution to the history and development of Guyana is important, not just to Afro Guyanese but it’s beneficial to all. If everyone can understand what their history was then, the hope here is that, that will to some extent lessen the stigma and the stereotyping and by extension the polarisation,” Reid reasoned.

Guyana is among countries that have adopted the UN Resolution 68/237 which is The International Decade for People of Africa Descent. It is observed from 2015 to 2024.

While the committee acknowledged Guyana’s effort to “build social cohesion out of a fragmented past”, it noted “serious deficiencies in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights of people of African descent”.

“The Government of Guyana should adopt measures to preserve, protect and restore the memory of sites and places of the transatlantic trade in Africans and enslaved resistance, giving increased visibility to this history and culture through museums, visual arts and other means,” Gumedze stated.

There were also recommendations for the creation of memorials to honour people of African descent and African victims of historic tragedies. “By way of example, sites of memory should be erected in Linden to commemorate the events of 1964 and 2012,” Gumedze said. However, he noted this must be done “in consultation”.

Additionally, recommendations were made for the establishment of “dedicated development funds to empower people of African descent who have been left behind”.

“The Working Group urges the implementation of policies that accelerate decentralisation of power and access to resources,” Dumedze said.

As part of taking effective measures “spirit of recognition, justice and development” of the International Decade, the government is inviting submissions of funding proposals to carry out activities related to the International Decade.


By: Tiffny Rhodius