How will these resources help you?

The Geography National Curriculum aims to ‘develop contextual knowledge of the location of globally significant places’ and ‘extend locational knowledge’ using maps to focus on Africa, Russia, Asia (including China and India) and the Middle East. Students must develop this knowledge of Africa at KS3, particularly those that go on to GCSE, where they will need this knowledge (AO1/2) for units on the Living World, Resource Management, Natural Hazards and Urban Change. These resources come from the perspective of adventure travel and expeditions. Rather than providing descriptive summaries of the landscape, they build on the student’s geographical imagination as they share the experiences of the authors. Teachers can share extracts for students to develop the sense of place that the curriculum requires. Many students have in-built preconceptions of Africa, and these resources help to challenge those.

Challenging preconceptions

Namibia: The Africa you have to See!

by 'Anton somewhere', published by YouTube, (2021)

This travel vlog begins by challenging negative preconceptions of Africa, explaining that many parts are ‘safe, civil, without malaria and beautiful’, and explores Namibia as an example of such a place. The presenter provides excellent locational context with a map of Africa. Namibia has the second lowest population density in the world, and the vast barren distances are emphasised throughout (AO1). Travelling north with stunning footage of the desert landscape and wildlife, he eventually reaches the coast and the world’s largest seal colony. The rugged Skeleton Coast is explored before finishing in the tropical region of the Waterberg Plateau, again with stunning footage of heavily forested landscapes that show stark contrast with the deserts further south. The resource is very watchable and an excellent way to introduce students to the diverse African landscape.    

African deserts

Desert Travels: Motorcycle Journeys in the Sahara and West Africa

by Chris Scott, published by Chris Scott Books, (2021), 9780993046544

This book tells the story of the writer’s various motorcycle adventures in the Sahara and West Africa in the 1980s. As the book suggests, ‘Today, following years of much-increased kidnapping, trafficking, terrorism and banditry, tourism has collapsed in the Sahara. But it wasn't always like that.’ The resource is ‘light-hearted and readable’ and gives students an appreciation of the landscape, climate and conditions the writer battles with. As one review states, the book is a ‘Human story of exploration promoting understanding the landscape and people’. An interesting way for students to cover the National Curriculum requirements is by exploring the African landscape through personal testimonies of adventure travellers. 

African rainforests

Crossing the Congo: Over Land and Water in a Hard Place

by Mike Martin, Chloe Baker and Charlie Hatch-Barnwell, published by Hurst, (2016), 9781849046855

This account of three friends crossing the Congo Basin, from Kinshasa to Juba in South Sudan, gives students an excellent insight into the harsh landscape of the region. The book is described as an ‘intimate look into one of the world’s least developed and most fragile states’. The book primarily has three threads: an introduction to the brutalisation of the Congolese people, the friendship dynamic of the group, and the ‘intensely physical journey across phenomenal terrain’ which brings to life this part of Africa’s landscape and the challenges it brings to travellers. Some students may have preconceptions of Africa as a desert, and this book certainly challenges this. Teachers can share extracts from the book to support student learning, particularly at KS3 in units on Ecosystems and at KS4 in units on The Living World. 

The African Savannah

Walking with Abel: Journeys with the Nomads of the African Savannah

by Anna Badkhen, published by Riverhead, (2016), 9780399576010

This book is set in the sub-Sahara region of the Sahel in Mali and Niger. The author joins the Fulani, the largest group of nomads on the planet, as they embark on their annual migration across the Sahel – a transitional zone which becomes green and lush when the rains arrive but is increasingly threatened by desertification. This book gives students an insight into how the diverse landscape can be unforgiving to the people that rely on it. The book also explores how the landscape is changing: the author explains that the nomads know the first week of June as the ‘Hoping, as they look to the sky for rain. However, ‘this year the Hoping had stretched into two excruciating weeks, then three, then four’. First-hand testimony supports students in their studies of the characteristics of and threats to the Savannah.  

Audiovisual clip

Planet Earth - Sahara sand storm

published by BBC, (2006)

A fascinating visual exploration of the Sahara desert.

Further materials

Earth from Space: The Great Rift Valley, Kenya by European Space Agency, published by YouTube, (2020) Watch this video
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro by Alexander Ayling, published by YouTube, (2021) Watch this video
Image Map of Africa by Africa Guide Access this resource
David Newell is Head of Geography at Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex. He has held the GA’s Secondary Geography Quality Mark since 2015, and has worked as a Specialist Leader in Education, advising schools on improving their Geography provision.

Text © David Newell, 2022.