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Young, Gifted, Black and Betrayed

Lee Jasper argues that Britain’s education system has betrayed the youth… so now it’s time to open our own schools run on our values.

Our children have been betrayed by UK educational authorities – so now it’s time to open our own schools exemplified by academic excellence, focused on blackening the text of the National Curriculum; prompting a progressive understanding of our history and contributions to the making of modern Britain; and linking into the international history of the global African Diaspora.

As a community we have witnessed half a century of educational failure, and this critical failure to a secure good quality education for our children has come at enormous cost to the community.

Significantly more than 56,000 black and ethnic minority children were permanently or temporarily excluded from English schools in 2007/8 according to Department for Children, Schools and Families figures, published in July 2009.

Along with huge increases in long term unemployment, Britain’s prisons and secure mental health units are full of young black men. We have endured explosions of violence on the streets, an expansion of the local drug trade as an alternative economy, and the crass commercialisation of black youth culture reinforcing the archetypal stereotypes of young black people as gangsters, pimps and whores.

Family decline has exacerbated this cocktail of despair and made acute the sense of abandonment that our children feel in particular in their relationship with their fathers.

As we witness this descending spiral of a community whose youth are in crisis we must ask ourselves: “what is to be our response to the situation we now face?”

The evolution of culture is ultimately determined by the amount of love, understanding and freedom experienced by its children.

Every abandonment, every betrayal, every hateful act towards children returns tenfold… while every empathic act that helps a child become what he/she wants to become, every expression of love toward children heals society and moves it in unexpected, wondrous new directions” – Lloyd de Mause, American Psychologist

We need to recognise as a community the fact that we are facing one of the most profound crises ever faced by British black communities in the UK since the Second World War.

Over the last 50 years we have witnessed the inexorable economic and educational decline that has left the majority of our communities living in the most deprived areas in the UK. Communities where the culture of long term poverty and unemployment has created a social climate where the bright light of hope and optimism has but all disappeared.

In its’ place has emerged a growing minority culture of nihilism, desperation, violence and despair. This historical culmination of over 50 years of neglect has created communities where educational failure is now being seen as the norm. And the really bad news is that the future looks bleak.

For example black youth unemployment and homelessness are on the rise during the worse economic depression seen in our lifetime. We have the fastest ageing population and one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates of any community in the UK most of whom will live either on state pensions and welfare benefits. Worst of all the BNP and racism is on the rise.

He, who opens a school door, closes a prison.” – Victor Hugo

After the election we can expect massive cuts in public spending that will impact on services targeted at poorer communities, the voluntary sector will suffer unprecedented reductions to their funding and crime will inevitably rise as will the number of our children heading for jail.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – Dr Martin Luther King

Whatever your views about this prognosis, what surely cannot be in doubt is the reality that we cannot afford to do is sit back and hope that things will improve by some sort of benevolent osmosis.

Our children’s long term future in this country is at stake. The bone-achingly slow pace of mainstream educational reform cannot deliver the urgent improvements needed for this and future generations.

The truth is we are in danger of failing to ensure that we bequeath to our children, as our parents and their foreparents did before them, a better a less racist society with greater opportunities than we were bequeathed. That is surely the primary responsibility of any parent and any community.

To sacrifice whatever is necessary to ensure their children inherit a better society than the one we endured. To ensure that future generation of our children are equipped to succeed in a hostile environment.

We are in distinct danger of being the first generation since the abolition of slavery that fails to fulfil our historical responsibility to our children. Albert Einstein once said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Make no mistake, such failure comes at a heavy cost. Particularly in climate where we can expect huge increases in long term unemployment, prisons and secure mental health units that are full of young black men, explosions of violence on the streets, expansion of the local drug trade as an alternative economy and the crass commercialisation of black youth culture reinforcing the archetypal stereotypes of young black people as gangsters, pimps and whores.

That’s why I am proposing the establishment of Britain’s first private school with charitable purposes, the African Academy.

A community funded private day and boarding school; the African Academy will cater for pupil’s aged 11 – 18. The intention is to launch a national fundraising campaign starting in 2010 we hope over the course of the next two to raise the estimated £15 million pounds needed to build, equip and fully staff the Academy. The target date for opening is September 2012.

The African Academy will require complete parental involvement and a financial commitment from parents of students and the wider community that will enable us to offer a large number of bursaries places to poorer families. We intend to establish a school that will be a beacon of educational excellence and one that demonstrates and delivers the obvious potential of our children.

The fight for social and economic justice begins in the classroom” – President Barack Obama

Such a school will meet the cultural, emotional, spiritual and physical need of our children. Providing an educational environment that focuses on exposes the lie that we are an underachieving community. Not a racially segregated school, but a school that is open to all, regardless of race or faith, open to all who value and actively support the ethos and objective of the school.

A school that will focus on offering culturally sensitive pastoral care, firm discipline that at its core. A curriculum that identifies the contributions of Africans in the fields of science, culture, medicine, politics and the arts. One that recognises the fact that modern concept of freedom and democracy as being informed by and hammered out on the anvil of our struggle for freedom from slavery.

The objective here is the delivery of the national curriculum in a way that speaks to the needs of black young people in an inclusive and more effective way.

The African Academy will act as a wonderful example of what can be achieved by a unified community. It will provide a positive and tangible legacy of inspiration for our children and debunk the myth that our children lack ability.

We all agree that education is key to the broad success of any community. The right to good quality education is an issue that should concern us all. Key to the extent to which any community can improve the life chances of its young people is the goal of improving both the quality of education and student attainment. This however has remained largely illusive for both Governments and black communities alike.

Improvements there have been – and it would be churlish not to recognise this – amount to some progress, however this has been a incremental process, piecemeal and delivered through short term unsustainable one off projects rather than fundamental reform.

In 2010 and beyond the education of our children will remain one of the most critical issues facing the British black community.

How do we escape the cycle of failure, the slow pace of incremental and agree a strategy that can deliver a qualitive step change capable of delivering on going and long term improvements?

Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today” Malcolm X

What we do know is that the history of mainstream educational reform in relation to tackling underachievement of African and Caribbean pupils particularly young boys has been largely driven by campaigning black parents groups or as a consequence of critical incidents such as the murder of Stephen Lawrence and Burnage High School Manchester.

There are countless Government or academic reports that have consistently pointed to the fact that black boys inparticular are being failed by the British state education system. There are probably enough such reports to fill a small library. Year on year these reports are churned out telling that which we already know.

Yet despite this the problem remains and inspire the best efforts of all concerned we can accurately describe the current situation as constituting a real crisis for Britain’s black communities and British society as a whole.

Rather than deluge with statistics I have created an African Academy Key Facts document to be read alongside this article.

The issue of race and education remains an issue that excites passionate debate. We must break out of this paralysis of analysis, create confidence and pride by building this school funded by our own money and demonstrate a unity of purpose and action that will make history and more importantly make our children proud.

It will provide a positive and tangible legacy of inspiration for our children and debunk the myth that our children lack ability. The African Academy will act as a wonderful example of what can be achieved by a unified community. If you’re interested in working for the establishment of the African Academy please email me on lee-jasper@live.com

For more information visit http://theafricanacademy.blogspot.com

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2 Responses

  1. very inspiring and informative.

  2. Yes i agree with most of what is said in this articl. However, i also feel that more needs to be done to educate parents of black children, how to communicate with your children and the importence of knowing where you come from and what you can acheive.

    From my experince of working with Parents i have become aware the lack of interest shown in their children education, attending parents evening, supporting children with homework, listsening to their children. Maybe a school where parents and children can learn together

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