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Renewed focus on black history in schools

Changes to the social studies curriculum in public schools were designed to make sure it was “grounded in a Bermudian context”, the education minister told the House of Assembly.

Diallo Rabain highlighted work to focus on black history in schools. “It comes as no surprise that with the recent protests at home and abroad over ongoing racial injustices, this perennial cry has resurfaced,” he said on Friday.

Mr Rabain added that the Bermuda and global studies section of the social studies curriculum was taught in public schools at all three levels.

He said an emphasis on Afro-Caribbean and African references to examine the family, cultural origins, including African and Caribbean, and Bermuda's cultures and traditions was taught in primary schools.

“Specifically, black history is connected to Cup Match, the tradition of emancipation activities, and the Gombey, a black Bermudian cultural symbol that finds its origins in Africa, and, having passed through the Caribbean, now has its own distinctive Bermudian appeal,” he said.

“Bermuda history continues at the upper school level with the teaching of geography, economics and civics taking centre stage.

“Children learn about the island's discovery in the context of the age of exploration and our journey through various global historical milestones as well as the global connection to Bermuda's economic activities.”

Mr Rabain said: “Bermuda's black history is interwoven throughout these historical narratives.”

He added that primary school pupils also learnt about the experience of black Bermudians, Bermuda's history of enslavement and the emancipation movement through icons including Mary Prince, once enslaved but who became a hero of the abolition movement in Britain after she wrote a book about her life.

Mr Rabain said primary schoolchildren also learnt about the self-help friendly societies that sprang up after emancipation.

He said: “The social studies curriculum also includes Bermuda's history of racial segregation, unfair work conditions, the nature of racial injustices, the struggle for reform and those personalities who led this struggle.”

Older primary school pupils are also taught about major figures and activists such as the Progressive Group, E.F. Gordon, Barbara Ball, Dame Lois Browne-Evans, Sir John Swan, and their impact on the country.

The curriculum moves to global studies in middle schools.

Mr Rabain said: “Featuring the Caribbean and ancient African kingdoms, the curriculum during the past school year has seen the addition of Mansa Musa, who predated the transatlantic slave period, and the introduction of the African Diaspora Heritage Trail.

“At the senior school level there is considerable flexibility with what is taught, but Bermuda studies is mandatory, with preserving our heritage and introduction to Africa courses offered as electives.”

Mr Rabain said the Bermuda National Trust had produced an interactive history book on black history and also worked with the Department of Education to deliver remote learning to more than 350 primary school pupils.

To read Diallo Rabain's statement in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

Perennial cry: Diallo Rabain highlighted focus on black history (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published July 06, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated July 06, 2020 at 9:26 am)

Renewed focus on black history in schools

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