African-centred education must be demanded
“There is something dreadfully wrong with an education/socialisation process that leaves us ignorant of our past, strangers to our people, apes of our oppressors and creatures of habitual shallow thought and trivial values”— Wade Nobles, PhD in the foreword of SBA: The Reawakening of the African Mind, by Asa Hilliard III, EdD
I returned to my country in 1978 with a PhD in Educational Administration from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
I have recorded the insults, injustices and indignities I suffered in my book, Let Justice Flow — A Black Woman's Struggle for Equality in Bermuda (1999).
By the way, there has been no accouhtability for the travesty caused to this country.
Over the past two weeks, two incidents occurred that made me know that I have a special task to educate the parents of the children in the public-school system.
I was interviewed by radio host Nikita Robinson on The Ladies Room on Hott 107.5. She is an anointed agitator. She pushed all of my buttons and I let it all hang out. It was the best interview that I have had in my life. At the end of the interview, I said to Sister Nikita: “I feel so light.”
The next day, I wrote her to let her know that what we actually did was release to the people of Bermuda the burden I have carried for the education of our children in the public-school system for the past 20 years.
On May 5, this year, I was honoured by Dale Butler, professor emeritus of history and culture, at the Crystal Butterfly Awards. Somehow, a deep feeling of worth flooded my being. It is so wonderful to be valued. I understood more clearly why God never allowed me to get a job in the Ministry of Education. I got clear directions from God through the Scripture found in Saint John 15:16.
The Scripture states: “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name, He may give it you.”
Many nights I have cried out to God and asked Him what is He going to do about the public-school system. “God shouldn't it be restructured? The foundation is racist. Isn't the education allowable for pacification, servitude and inferiorisation?”
“God, isn't the Ministry of Education the top-heavy mode? Shouldn't the minimum qualification be an earned doctorate with a needed area of expertise to serve the system?”
“God, why can't we have an education authority like the Bermuda Tourism Authority?”
“God, shouldn't there be a purposeful transformation of principals and teachers?”
“God, shouldn't there be a relevant, identity curriculum with cultural integrity, infused with the African content and the Bermuda content?”
“Shouldn't there be school boards for public schools? Wasn't this a recommendation from the Educational Planning Team in 1988? From the Hopkins Report in 2007? From Joseph Christopher in his book entitled A Random Walk Through the Forest — Reflections on the History of Education in Bermuda from the Middle of the 20th Century.”
“God. I rest my case for a fair, just and equitable system of education for the children in the public schools in Bermuda in your hands.”
Isn't it time for a volcanic eruption in education in this country to bring about the needed change in education? Why we must provide African-centred education in our public schools.
In 1998, I attended a lecture at the Bermuda College. The lecturer was Asa Hilliard III, PhD, a notable educator, psychologist and historian. The lecture was entitled Infusion of the African Content in the Curriculum.
During the lecture, Dr Hilliard said two words that sent me on what I called my “Sankofa Journey”. The two words were “falsified curriculum”. I felt so badly. You mean I have been teaching a falsified curriculum for more than 30 years?
I travelled to Ghana, West Africa on two trips with Dr Hilliard and my life was transformed. It was Dr Hilliard's book, SBA: The Reawakening of the African Mind that revolutionised my life and better equipped and prepared me to teach our children of African descent.
Dr Nobles stated: “SBA: The Reawakening of the African Mind is a key. It is a road map. It is a call to destiny. With SBA: The Reawakening of the African Mind, Dr Hilliard helps us to comprehend why education is so critical to African liberation and advancement.
Within his opening thoughts, Dr Hilliard inextricably links the mind or spirit with culture and education. He notes that to reawaken the African mind, we must ensure that the goal of education, and the socialisation process, must be to understand and live up to cultural African principles, values and virtues.
In spite of having obtained a PhD, I had to read the following books after I graduated to be a better-prepared teacher of children of African descent.
These books are to be found in the African Educators' Library:
1, SBA: Reawakening of the African Mind
2, African Intellectual Heritage: A Book of Sources
3, Too Much Schooling, Too Little Education: A Paradox of Black Life in White Societies
4, The Developmental Psychology of The Black Child
6, Second-Class Citizens, First-Class Men
7, The Mis-Education of the Negro
8, Awakening the Natural Genius of Black Children
9, Learning While Black: Creating Educational Excellence for African-American Children
10, Intellectual Warfare
11, Black Children: Their Roots, Culture and Learning Styles
Parents, teachers and students you cannot stand idly by and let our children be denied learning about their rich African heritage and legacy.
Speak out! Demand that our children be taught their African history.
Kwame Kenyetta, in his book Guide to Implementing Afrikan Centred Education, stated: “Children who fail to know their own history and culture are apt to believe that their history and culture are of secondary importance at best.
“The best way to tap children's creativity and intelligence is to centre the child first in their own historical and cultural experience.”
• Muriel Wade-Smith, PhD is an author and longtime educator