Start from home to decolonise education
THE EDITOR, Sir:
I read the letter ‘Time to decolonise education’ published in The Gleaner on September 28. The day prior, Michael Abrahams’ commentary on the legacy of slavery was in a similar vein.
Although Dr Abrahams never spoke directly to education, he stated that “the colonisers spent centuries convincing the enslaved and colonised that anything Black was inferior”. This entrenched belief in the superiority of Eurocentric ideals has, no doubt, contributed to us, as a people, refusing to move on from the colonial brand of education that has failed us in post-Independence Jamaica.
Many will not agree with me, and will reference the numerous scholars and experts at the top of their field all over the world that our education system has produced. It is true that we have produced experts that are comfortably rubbing shoulders with the world’s best, but these individuals have achieved despite the odds.
Think about it, why are our children still reciting colonial nursery rhymes about London bridge, the grand old duke of York, and hot cross buns – rhymes that our children cannot relate to because there is no reference point? I can ask the same question of my high school, which I love dearly, but why are we still singing the praises of St Hugh of Lincoln town in our school song when there is Fae Ellington – a distinguished alumna? Our brand of education is indeed a legacy of slavery.
I must be honest in saying that the Ministry of Education has attempted to transform education to make it more culturally appropriate. For example, teachers have been sensitised about the need to use children’s literature that children can relate to and can see images of themselves in print, and to ensure that there are black dolls in the play area. Representation is important, and these steps that may seem insignificant will teach children lessons about self-acceptance and the value of blackness. These ‘simple’ steps will contribute to the decolonisation of education.
I will end with the words of Louis Moyston – “We, as a people, should not wait on the leaders to respond. We the people must begin the struggle for a new philosophy in education.” We can start in our homes – education does begin at home. Changes take time but a start is needed.
School of Education,
The UWI, Mona