Army officers are useless

Where orienteering is not a school subject

Migrants traveling thousands of kilometers through the Sahara can neither show where they are nor where they are going on a map. What does this tell us?

Migration experts have found that irregular migrants in West Africa are mostly ignorant of the dangers that threaten them on their journey through the Sahara and across the Mediterranean. They neither know that people smugglers often drop passengers from the loading area, nor that migrants often die of thirst after breakdowns. It is also unknown that they can be held on the move or abused as slaves.

It remains to be seen whether the emigrants know nothing of the impending adversity or just don't want to know anything, because they only have the goal of "Europe" in their heads. In any case, in the Nigerien capital Niamey, the employee of a western aid organization recently determined unwaveringly that if you give migrants a map, they are unable to point where they are or where they were going. The expert believed that she had hit the trail of the height of ignorance. But their observation is completely useless. Africans don't use maps. Even police or army officers are lost if you ask them for information using a city or map.

Is the reason because map reading isn't a school subject? Or do maps and the abstraction skills they require do not match the African mentality? Africans usually orientate themselves from a personal perspective, their own or that of an acquaintance. This applies to the perspective in life as well as to the overview in the field. Abstract guides, "the Cartesian model," as a Congolese friend who studied philosophy at the Sorbonne once called it, are alien to them.

That's not just a disadvantage. Africans often know better than Europeans where it goes, in the field as in life, but they know it from their own experience and thanks to an excellent memory, which is based on landmarks such as trees, bushes, rocks, houses. In contrast, what is a map with its lines and dots?