This Activity Book Teaches African Children About Themselves, Their History, and Their Reality
South African entrepreneur Khulani Sikhosana wants to use equal representation to drive change.
South Africa, like many other nations whose people were previously oppressed, still faces transformational challenges born of the legacy of apartheid and colonialism.
One of these challenges is that previously marginalised groups are still under-represented in many areas — including educational tools like textbooks.
But when people aren’t properly represented in things like books or films, it can leave them feeling disconnected from culture and society.
Earlier this year, the Department of Basic Education released a report that found a need for a more Afrocentric history to be taught in schools, to counteract the emphasis still put on a Eurocentric history.
The report claimed that putting more emphasis on African history would help South African students fully understand the context they live in.
And an activity book called Little Brown Sugar, hopes to help provide this context. It’s written for children up to 12 years old, and aims to teach them about themselves, their history, their looks, and their reality.
It’s the brainchild of Khulani Sikhosana, a social entrepreneur who worked in collaboration with illustrator Dav Andrew to create the book, after noticing that “when you look at the children’s activity books at the market, many of them don’t represent the African reality and the African child.”
“With Little Brown Sugar, we seek to redress that,” Sikhosana told Global Citizen. “African children need an African experience in order for them to become adults that think and can solve problems they face in their communities.”
The book itself is very interactive, with colouring sections, crossword puzzles, and games that represent the realities and images of African children in different parts of the world.
But it’s not just a book, it’s part of a movement, and also aims to give back to children in disadvantaged communities through schemes like collecting and donating school shoes.
After Sikhosana visited a school in his community of Eastrand, in Johannesburg, he realised that many children were lacking the basics that make going to school possible.
“I saw when I was donating bags and shoes that school shoes were a need at Thulisa Primary School, some of the learners wore torn shoes,” he says. “Giving back to the community is our primary objective, [and] with the help of the community we hope to continue collecting and distributing more school shoes.”
Sikhosana himself began his entrepreneurial journey at the age of just 13, when he started selling sweets to help his family make ends meet. He believes a book like Little Brown Sugar is particularly important for children from poorer backgrounds who might need motivation and inspiration.
“The activity book gives the child an African worldview — an experience that does not dissociate them from their history, culture, how they look, and what makes up their daily reality,” says Sikhosana.
The movie Black Panther is one great example of how popular culture, and equal representation, can transform how we see and think about African traditional practices and culture.
The excitement around its release and its positive representation of Africa was felt all over the world, and Sikhosana hopes that Little Brown Sugar will also received in a way that empowers its audience.
“We hope the book helps children identify their fullest potential so that they can transcend their ordinary comfort zone, so they can be the best,” he says.
Little Brown Sugar will be officially launched on the end of October 2018, and will also be printed and distributed in the US and in Ghana.
The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.