race, education and immigration

Saleh Mamon reports on the recent west London public meeting on Race, Education and Immigration 

On Saturday 31st January a number of progressive teachers, trade unionists, community activists and migrant organisations met at the West London Trade Union Club in Acton.

The public meeting, organised by the London Development Education Centre (Contact londec@hotmail.com) covered a wide range of themes- from individual cases, teaching strategies and politics of education. There were many contributions from the participants seeking clarification, bringing their own experience and suggesting further action. It was an excellent meeting both in terms of new ideas, sharing knowledge and campaigning for racial justice. The dialogue that the gathering sparked opened up possibilities of united action for different forms of community resistances to institutional and state racism.

Selina Adda told the meeting how she fled a forced marriage in Ghana and applied for asylum in Britain.  She thought she had made life for herself in Britain over the four years with her two children Brian and Chelsea. Selina herself had completed a nursing course with a distinction. Yet the Adda family has had no respite. On Monday the 29 Sept 2008 at 7 am her Selina’s home was raided and the three members of the family were bundled to Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. They were not given food until late in the evening and the children spent the day in a state of high anxiety.  They have a temporary reprieve because of community campaigns but their asylum claim has been rejected. They do not have a voice in this country but most readers of this column do. To support the Adda family, by signing petitions and writing letters to MPs, help can be obtained on the NCADC website at AddaFamily.html

Marjorie Nshemere spoke in support of the Adda family. She herself faced immense difficulties in winning her asylum case when she sought to escape an intolerable situation in Uganda. She is currently trying to get her daughter to join her and is battling to convince the Home Office that she is the mother of her daughter. She is also the co-ordinator for Women Asylum Seekers Together (London) and has been campaigning for women and children seeking asylum. For more details on her campaign contact:  wastlondon@yahoo.co.uk.  Details of the national campaign are to be found on the WAST website.

Farhan Zakaria spoke about his struggle to stay in London to continue teaching. He is a 28 year who taught French and Bengali at Sarah Bonnel School in Stratford. He has lived in the UK for 12 years on a long term visa while his father was working for the Bangladesh High Commission. During this period he completed his GCSEs, A- level and university degree and got a job as a teacher. When his father’s employment ended in year 2000, his family applied for residence but were turned down because of changes in immigration rules. He argued that to deport him would breach his right to a family and private life but immigration judges rejected the claim as well as those of his parents and elder brother. The High Court has refused him the right to appeal. He has been supported by the school pupils, management, the LEA and NUT. To support his case, visit Support Farhan

Martin Spafford, a history teacher in Waltham Forest, held the audience spellbound on the various approaches to black history teachers can adopt at Key Stage 3. The newly revised curriculum offers opportunities to tell stories of resistance and decolonisation. The choices for making connections can start from themes, individual life stories, documents, media reports, pictures and many more to make the subject engaging for pupils. He argued that there were ample opportunities to teach black history as a part of the human history throughout the academic year well beyond the Black History Month. Those who want to learn more on his work with secondary school pupils can contact him on: martinspaff@ntlworld.com

Justin Baidoo, a community activist and former teacher campaigning against academies in Southwark, used evidence to assert that academies were failing BME and working class communities. In 2005-2006, academies excluded twice as many pupils as comprehensive schools. Parent cannot appeal against such exclusions. Academies can select 10 percent of their intake but there is evidence for covert selection. New figures show that there has been a 16 percent drop in the proportion of children on free school meals in academies compared to 2 percent drop in non-selective state schools. They are not accountable to parents or the local community and totally controlled by the governance structure set up by private funders.  Academies are not bound by the National Curriculum and not subject to Freedom of Information Act. More information on the campaign against academies can be obtained at the Anti-Academy Alliance.

Esther Stanford, scholar and activist, explored the praxis of Reparative Educational Reform essential to developing a 21st century curriculum to overcome centuries of subjugation of African, African Caribbean and other African descended people. She highlighted the social movements and individual who have developed key educational concepts and framework to challenge the dominant Eurocentric curriculum. Her theme was that the education given to children today was not education but mis-education. She showed participants educational materials that had been developed to cover the 8000 year history of African people which can be used in classrooms. More information can be obtained from 8000 year TIME line and Grassroots Rising Regeneration Network