This is something that I would generally have kept off-record for a number of reasons including the fact that I don’t want to come across as having a big ego and I’d like to give the BBC panel organizers the benefit of the doubt. However, I’m have been pretty outspoken about the fact that I’m tired of the Bono’s and Sach’s of this world articulating my views as an African. It’s one of the reasons I’m very quick to respond to media requests for interviews, profiles, etc. (I really could be a media slut) – I think it’s important for Africans to get our views out there. So while I understand that the BBC panel organizers had other considerations to worry about, I’m miffed that the panel turned out to be just another debate of “experts” with the same sound-bites and superficial views of what the issues are.
But first, some context.
A couple of days ago, Hash wrote an interesting post about the OLPC debate and the fact that the debate has generally been conducted by a variety of white men who feel strongly about whether African children would be better off with food in their stomachs or with laptops (OK, I’m being facetious, but most of the debates really boil down to some variation of this).
I was thrilled when I read the post, because the following day I was going to be part of a panel that would address issues around the OLPC debate – my presence on the panel (being that I was not the typical technology, development, or education expert) suggested to me that at least the BBC was trying to get some different perspectives.
The other panelists were:
Abdul Waheed Khan – Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris.
Matt Keller – One Laptop per child project. Director for Europe, Middle East and Asia.
Martha Stone Wiske- Lecturer on Education Technology, Innovation, and Education Programme at Harvard.
John Dada – He is Programs Director, Fantsuam Foundation, Nigeria. The Fantsuam Foundation is sharing and building information for rural development, facilitating the achieving of MDGs in rural Nigeria through ICT-enabled community development.
I was planning to respond to Hash’s post with my experience on the panel. I was going to speak from the perspective of-an-African-parent-who-would-love-to-see-this-in-schools-flaws-in-the-program-notwithstanding and boy-most-African-students-are-sorely-deprived-off-the-opportunity-to-tinker-and-be-creative -and-anything-that-can-change-that-is-a-good-thing (and yes you can work on feeding them at the same time, I don’t see how one negates the other).
But as I said in my previous post, I didn’t get the chance to ruffle feathers and all because I was replaced about 2 hours before the panel was about to be filmed. This after “urgent” emails requesting my participation, and suffering through a bad phone connection to “prep” for the interview. And me stressing about what I would wear since my luggage was still in
Dubai. Who replaced me? A Malaysian professor of medical education who apparently had experience with learning and technology.
Couldn’t they just have had 6 panelists?
Anyway, they offered me the opportunity to ask a question at the end of the debate so that I can at least “get in my perspective.” In 30 seconds? What the hell?
I almost said no. But then I figured I might as well learn to master the art of the subversive sound-bite. I thought I did a pretty good job. Hopefully it doesn’t make it to the cutting floor. Especially after this post.
It could just be a fluke, or bad timing, or the fact that I wasn’t an “expert” or some other really convincing explanation, but my experience got me thinking about just how screwed up things are when it comes to getting in an alternative view of Africa.
Was this a microcosm of what happens with the media all the time? Am I overreacting?
Yes we have blogs, and Global Voices, and progressive media – but lets not kid ourselves – that’s nowhere near the reach of the likes of BBC World.
Hash asks “Will No One Speak for Africa?”
I am wondering “Will No One Let Africa Speak for Itself?”