22.05.2018 - UNESCO Office in Harare

Teaching national liberation movements history to promote regional integration

Delegates at the meeting pose for a group photo

An experts meeting on teaching the history of the National Liberation Movements in the SADC Region took place in Windhoek, Namibia from 24 to 25 April 2018. The meeting was organised by UNESCO in partnership with the Southern Africa Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), Namibia’s Ministry of Higher Education, Arts and Culture, and the National Assembly of Namibia.

The meeting was the first phase of the National Liberation Movements Heritage Programme: Using the History of Independence to Promote Inclusion, Cultural Diversity, and Civic Education.

Officially opened on 24th April 2018 in the chambers of the National Assembly of Namibia, the experts meeting brought together prominent scholars and experts such as Mr Joel Khathutshelo Netshitenzhe, the Executive Director of Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) and former member of the Office of Nelson Mandela in South Africa; Mr Godfrey Madaraka Nyerere, the Coordinator of Butiana Cultural Tourism Enterprise in Tanzania; Professor Simbi Mubako, Zimbabwean Former Cabinet Minister and legal advisor of  Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU PF), among others.

These historians, scholars and veterans of liberation struggles in the region discussed ways to solve contemporary issues in the region such as exclusion, discrimination and promoting youth civic engagement through teaching of history. During the discussions, some of the experts gave testimonies of their personal experiences during the liberation struggles. Mr Nyerere recounted the story of his mother, Mama Maria Nyerere, the widow of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who used to mobilise resources for the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO). This is just one example of the solidarity that existed among Africans during the fight for independence and who had to come together to defeat a common evil, colonialism.

Mr Nyerere aslo shared his experience as the coordinator of Butiama Cultural Tourism Enterprise, a cultural organisation based in Butiama, Tanzania that promotes the village where Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, the  founding President of Tanzania was born and where he is buried,  as a historical place, thereby promoting the cultural heritage of the local communities. He said the organization promotes and celebrates the legacy of Julius Nyerere and the history of Tanzania.

Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe and a Zimbabwean liberation war veteran relayed her experiences as a female combatant. She said women were active participants of the liberation movements in the region and that the wars of independence had an impact on everyone regardless of gender or religion.

Dr Gwaradzimba said people of all ages and genders were displaced and sent into refugee camps were they were met with hunger, disease and death. She said that women cared for children, the elderly and the wounded. They also mobilised and politicised people before they went for training as solders.

During his presentation on the National Liberation Movements Heritage Programme, UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA), Programme Specialist for Social and Human Sciences, Mr Charaf Ahmimed, quoted the words of the late Nelson Mandela who said “…we must work together to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth, opportunity, and power in our societies …” which had deep resonance throughout the experts meeting.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) region experiences challenges ranging from youth unemployment, poverty, HIV/AIDS, marginalization and discrimination of minorities, xenophobia, intolerance, socio-economic instability among others. These challenges are there despite the fact that the region is the most economically developed and relatively peaceful in Africa.

Young women and men of the region are not well informed on the history of the region. They have little appreciation of the liberation struggles that brought about the independence of their countries and the region as a whole. There is lack of knowledge of the National Liberation Movements and the sacrifices made by the older generations within their countries and Pan-Africanist revolutionaries in other countries for the independence of the region.

UNESCO aims to document the history of liberation struggles in such a way that will allow citizens, particularly the youth to understand and appreciate the commonalities and solidarity among the people of colonial Southern Africa hence creating an environment of mutual respect and togetherness. The aim of the overall programme as such is to share and utilize the diverse experiences of the liberation struggle in Southern Africa to help the region address its contemporary challenges of xenophobia and other forms of discrimination as well as promote regional integration,  tolerance, unity and social cohesion. UNESCO is also working towards using this history to bring together young people of the region and engage them in subjects such as inclusion, cultural diversity and civic education.

As a follow-up to the experts meeting held in Windhoek, UNESCO will support the elaboration of resource material to teach the national liberation movement history and engage with young women and men in the SADC region. As said Desmond Tutu, “In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom and just peace without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime”.

For more information, please contact: c.ahmimed(at)unesco.org or d.kasote(at)unesco.org

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