An African girl going to school in The Gambia I studied English Literature, which I loved, and English history. At 17 there was some noise about teaching African literature in schools and so I was introduced to the writings of Mariama Ba in ‘So Long a Letter’.
When I went to do my A’Levels in Ghana I was introduced to the writings of Chinua Acheba and Wole Soyinka.
But by then I had read most of Shakespeare's books, Hemingway, George Elliot, Jane Austen and so on. I knew heroines like Joan of Arc and nothing about Queen Amina of Ethopia or Ya Asantewa, my personal favourite, of Ghana. I knew about Winston Churchhill and not about Thomas Sankara or Seikou Touray. I knew more about the British Empire than I did about the Malian or Ghanaian empires.
How does this make sense?
An African child growing up in Africa knows more about the history, literature, heroes, heroines, gods of people who did not look like me than I did about the people who looked like me.
In the West, African history is an option at university. This must be the case in Africa. We must study our history first and foremost and build the foundation of knowledge of self before we can know others, before we can do better.
If my heroes and heroines and gods and kings and queens and conquerors are all white then I aspire to whiteness as the symbol and benchmark of who I should be. It affects my sense of self, my sense of worth and my way of seeing the world and being seen in it.
My heroes and heroines and my gods and my kings and queens and conquerors must look like me. That is what validates me. That is what gives me a sense of history and entitlement. That is my starting point.
That is the right of every African child.
Let me add, I am not saying we should not learn European or Western history. i am saying know yourself first.