The Covid-19 pandemic has touched the lives of people around the world, and one effect has been on children. When schools closed, unless their parents were key workers, children were forced to stay home and study. For very young children this involved relying on parental attention which could have been shared with working their jobs from home as well as household chores. A recent report by Ofsted has shown significant negative effects of the pandemic, with Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted, saying, “We are seeing difficulties with social interaction and social confidence… And also in physical development”
Children’s development, particularly in terms of language, should not have been overly affected by the lockdowns. Some difference can be expected in terms of interaction with people children didn’t meet until after restrictions were lifted; they may be more wary of sharing, and with physical contact – but this can be changed as they adjust over time.
According to the theory of language development by B.F Skinner, children learn completely by imitation of adults, so all the speech they use has been copied from those around them. If this was the case, it would be completely understandable for children born during the pandemic to have limited language capabilities. One of the main issues with the theory, as put forward by linguist Noam Chomsky, is the “poverty of input”. Adults don’t often have enough variation in their vocabulary, or speak in grammatically correct sentences, which would reinforce the idea that children’s speech has been affected by lockdown.
However, if abiding by the ideas of Chomsky, it would mean believing that children have an innate ability when it comes to language, and he called this inborn instinct for grammatical rules the “Language Acquisition Device” or LAD for short. Obviously, since limitations in the language abilities of children born during the pandemic has been noticed, this theory already has many issues. If it was totally true, then children would have no problems at all in their language development.
Psychologist Jerome Bruner proposed a development on this idea of children’s innate language skills. He argued that the key factor in children’s language development is interaction between children and parents. It is not enough for a child to just hear their native language being spoken, there has to be a two-way interaction. He was interested in the language used by adults when speaking to children, for example, the use of more limited vocabulary and simplified grammar, and the expansion or recasting of their children’s sentences.
Bruner was also influenced by the psychologist Vygotsky who thought that all learning involves interaction with a “more knowledgeable other”. Bruner used this to build his idea of “scaffolding” i.e. that the innate ability to learn language is matched by the parent or caregiver’s skills in adapting their speech to support development. He built on Chomsky’s concept of the LAD and suggested that the interaction between parents and children forms a Language Acquisition Support System, or LASS.
Of course, no theory will be without its issues, but Bruner’s seems to come closest to how children develop language skills in real life. Cases such as that of Jim, a son to deaf parents who didn’t teach him sign language, believing that input from the TV and radio would be enough to help him learn how to speak, show the importance of interaction with parents when it comes to the development of language skills. Jim’s speaking abilities were heavily impacted by the lack of communication with his parents, and only after intense speech therapy, was he able to develop speech.
This shows that the pandemic shouldn’t have severely affected children’s ability to form words unless they were having very little interaction with parents or caregivers in the home. If this is the case, then the issue is much bigger than simply lockdown being at fault. Even if the child is only at home for weeks, it shouldn’t have such an impact on their speech skills because, in terms of the legal Covid restrictions, nothing was preventing or limiting interaction within the home.
In a recent Guardian article, a preschool teacher wrote about children that were “struggling to articulate” and “missed out on physical development opportunities” such as five year olds crawling instead of walking. interesting but concerning observations when it comes to the development of children’s skills, however, how much is Covid-19 or Lockdown restrictions responsible for this? There is a deeper problem here. Nurseries and schools shouldn’t be responsible for teaching “foundational skills” like speaking and walking. Of course, being around other adults and children is important when it comes to development, but even when this is not possible, as during lockdown, the growth of these basic abilities shouldn’t be stunted as much as this. The real question is, why are parents not speaking to or encouraging their child in physical milestones?
However busy life would get with working from home, and various household chores, parents should still have found time to talk to their child so they know how to be part of a conversation, and to help them with balance and steadying themselves so they get used to walking. Ms Spielman said “For some children they’ve not much interaction at all if they’ve spent all their time looking at screens. Children have been talking in the funny voices of cartoons they’ve been spending enormous amounts of time watching.”
Lockdown may have been the reason for children having to be at home, but their development shouldn’t be reliant on schools only. Such a detrimental amount of screen time is the responsibility of the parent; why was the child spending so much time watching TV that they picked up the habits of fictional characters instead of the people in their household? Instead, family members reading stories or even having a conversation with the child while carrying out household tasks would provide the child with the necessary interaction as well as distraction. Studies have shown how an early exposure to language and conversations helps with their later skills and academic achievement, and is something every child should be given the advantage of.
Schools and nurseries play a vital part in teaching young children life skills but they should only be one element with the first responsibility being on parents. The pandemic created a difficult situation but we can learn from it and ensure our children grow up healthy and with properly developed social skills.
All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.
Make religious education in Northern Ireland more diverse, says UNESCO
A study by UNESCO Education Centre concluded that schools in Northern Ireland should scrap Christian influenced religious education and daily acts of collective worship and replace religiously segregated schools with those that are more religiously diverse.
AnalystNews spoke to Dr Matthew Milliken, the study’s author, to find out how he thinks a more religiously open and diverse education system could bring much needed change to students at Northern Ireland’s mainstream schools.
Dr Milliken says that the purpose of this study was “to present a vision on empirical and academic evidence of what an education system in Northern Ireland could look like.” A vision that recognises various failings of the system which includes completely disregarding the idea of teaching students the different types of beliefs that society currently has, and the impact this has had on children who may be part of a faith which differs from the traditional Northern Irish beliefs of Catholicism or Protestantism. The signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which brought an end to thirty years of the Troubles, introduced a new devolved government where unionists and nationalists would share power. But the arrangement did little for the country’s education system.
Unionists who believe Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK are usually Protestants and nationalists who believe that Northern Ireland should become part of a United Ireland are mainly Catholic. As the power to govern is shared between the two sides, schools have become completely segregated and students have been left with only two choices: attend Catholic or state Protestant schools. More than twenty-four years after the agreement, a surprising 93% of students in Northern Ireland still attend segregated schools.
“They still go to schools that are dominated by a Catholic ethos, present a particular image of Irish culture and Irish identity or they attend schools that are influenced, if not controlled, by Protestant denominations and propagate a particularly British view of society,” explains Dr Milliken. Students in Northern Ireland are kept religiously segregated from as young as three to eighteen.
But it’s not only the students. Teachers, too, attend separate training colleges. Dr Milliken elaborates, “They then go into university or for the sake of teachers, into separate training colleges. There’s a separate training college for Catholic schools and there’s a separate training college for state schools. And those teachers can go through their entire career, from age 3 through all of their school, through all of their further education, to going straight back into the classroom without ever having sat alongside anybody of the other faith.”
It hasn’t gone uncontested. The need for greater religious awareness has been a growing matter, and it predates the Good Friday Agreement. “There is a small integrated education system that accounts for about 7% of the schools here. It started about 40 years ago against great opposition. It was strongly resisted by the churches in particular,” states Dr Milliken.
And resistance has persisted. In July this year, a high court judge ruled that exclusively Christian religious education was unlawful. It came following a legal challenge by a father and daughter whose lawyers argued that the syllabus taught at the seven-year-old’s controlled primary school, violated her educational rights as laid out in the European Convention on Human Rights.
Catholic schools in Northern Ireland prioritise a view of history from an Irish perspective, whilst their state-controlled Protestant counterparts learn the British version of history. This means that in a Catholic school, children learn the Irish language, focus on issues to do with Ireland, and understand British issues through an Irish lens. However, in a Protestant state-controlled school, children are more likely to learn a British version and understanding of history, which means learning history the same way it is taught in mainland British schools.
The influence this has on wider society may be profound. Everything is taught differently – from academic subjects to sports. So for example, a Protestant school normally has as part of its physical education curriculum rugby, cricket, and hockey, but in a Catholic school, sports closely allied with Irish national identity such as Gaelic football and hurling are played.
The issue “goes beyond religion” Dr Milliken says. “To simplify to religion doesn’t really help because at the core, both sides are Christian. However, the roots of that Christian-centric education system go right through the education system here.” Boards of education have representatives from the three Protestant denominations and the Catholic Church which are responsible for educational administration. And there are separate boards for the controlled state-side and the Catholic side.
To entrench matters further, places on the board of governors are protected. Dr Milliken told Analyst News: “A Catholic school is likely only to have Catholics sitting on the board of governors. A controlled-state school is likely only to have Protestants on that board, and Protestants only from three particular denominations. There are no protected places on any of them that management are governors or people from any other faith.” All schools are required to teach a religious syllabus that is laid down exclusively by those four Churches. Schools are “controlled, inspired, dominated by Christian thinking. And pupils do not have the opportunity to study what they refer to as World Religions: Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, until they reach post-primary level,” he says.
Even so, the way that Christianity is taught is intense; a Catholic primary school must have teachers who have undertaken an additional qualification that is solely approved by the Catholic Bishops, who then sanction whether they can teach the Catholic faith in line with the teachings of the Church. The Certificate in Religious Education is one of the many interlinked matters that have been identified as limiting opportunities for teachers in Northern Ireland to accessing employment outside of those schools associated with their own educational background and community identity. “That certificate is a large barrier to Protestant teachers getting a job in a Catholic school,” according to Dr Milliken but “there is time for change now.”.
From a human rights perspective, faith schooling is considered a key part of schools’ ethos. Children are entitled to skip religious education lessons if they follow different faiths but they usually end up sitting in the corridor on their own. And this is problematic as Dr Milliken explains. “They are being excluded. It’s one thing if they want to identify themselves and their difference in the class. But when they’re being excluded and identified as different by the system of education. That’s not a healthy way to be.”
The result is isolation and a feeling of victimhood. If a fair and open-minded religious curriculum was taught rather than “a lesson that propagated a particular worldview,” these children would feel much more comfortable explaining, sharing, and talking about their views and faith.
Dr Milliken told Analyst News that exploring religion would ultimately help them understand other people’s faith and their cultures: “I think there is a need to help young people, to find out right from wrong, to explore their values and belief systems. I think there’s an absolute need to help young people form their own ethical view of the world.”
It doesn’t help that certain topics are not broached. Dr Milliken says: “They don’t explore the issues of controversy that still affect this part of the world. They don’t look at issues of faith, issues of identity, issues of culture, issues of nationality, issues of politics, issues of history, that are shared. Those are the issues that teachers need to come to terms with.”
He states in his study that controversial issues should be taught in classrooms such as ‘shared education’ which “is an effort to fund joint activity between divided schools.” Supported by state funding, he envisages Catholic and Protestant primary schools working in collaboration and discussing issues that surpass “safe territory.”
Change could come through an engagement with those controversial issues, opening up debate and listening to alternative views without prejudice or the possibility of indoctrination. Whilst acknowledging the many differences between the two educational approaches, Dr Milliken is hopeful that his study may draw on their similarities instead and “bring people forward to challenge and question the state of school.” And although “it’s not a quick fix”, he feels the research offers a steppingstone to further questions about the school system in Northern Ireland. Dr Milliken is adamant that “we can have a more inclusive system of education that becomes a more shared system of education. One that isn’t backward looking, and one that better prepares our children for a shared future.”
All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.
The Taliban’s Broken Pledges: a regressive state for women’s rights
It is an unfortunate plight that the Taliban have come back into power in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s broken pledges, prove that Afghanistan is a regressive state for Women’s rights.
The return of the Taliban and their uncompromising government following their capture of Kabul on August 15th, 2021 is seeing the lives of Afghans spiral back into one reminiscent of that during the 1990s, and once again the rights of women are being violated the most – showcasing the examples of the Taliban’s broken pledges.
The Taliban’s promise to uphold a less repressive leadership seems to be failing especially concerning the liberties of women. Women and girls are being prevented from basic human rights such as freedom of expression, movement and freedom to earn a living.
For many Afghan girls however, their right to education has been their most precious ambition. But with the hope and promise of this education, these dreams have been just as quickly crushed as girls were turned away from schools, following the announcement that only girls in grade six and below were eligible to attend. Additionally, despite giving more flexibility than their predecessors, like allowing selected jobs or circumstantial travelling, the Taliban have maintained that women need to be accompanied by a male family member at all times, resulting in a negative domino effect on other rights. Thus, it seems life for girls now doesn’t differ much from how it was under the Taliban’s last rule from 1996-2001.
Canadian journalist Kathy Gannon suggests that this failure to fulfil promises to Afghan girls comes from a discordance within the Taliban itself. It seems members from newer generations in the group – many of whose daughters reportedly receive their education in Pakistan – are at odds with older and stricter members. It may be that those holding onto more conservative views of the Taliban from the 90s are perhaps the obstacles in the way of more progressive and necessary changes.
The rest of the Afghan population also continues to suffer from dire human rights violations. With more than a reported ‘95% of Afghans’ being food insecure for almost the entire year of Taliban government, millions of civilians, specifically children, are subject to malnutrition and facing either ‘crisis’ or ‘emergency’ levels of food insecurity. With aid halted from international governments and the restrictive measures on the roles of women, people are having to turn to extreme solutions like sending their children to work. But this alone does not provide enough to sustain even low living standards. And with a collapsed healthcare system, Afghans are barely existing.
Human Rights Watch notes this is largely due to the failure of the Taliban and foreign governments to come to an agreement regarding financial aid, and given that before August 2021, 75% of Afghan economy was dependent on foreign aid, it appears that the Taliban’s ability to fulfil their pledges relies on their cooperation and communication with both domestic and international bodies. But this doesn’t absolve foreign governments of their responsibilities – particularly in the West – who likely deliberately fail to engage with the Taliban because its politics oppose majority global opinion, and who value political favour more highly than Afghan lives.
All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.
‘Don’t forget them’: millions of Afghans face hunger, economic crisis
International aid workers share stories of children and families struggling to make ends meet
“Winter is coming.”
That’s how Ammar Ammar, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan, describes the situation in Afghanistan. The current hunger crisis, the result of a collapsing economy and drought, will only get worse if the country doesn’t get help, he says, especially in the colder months when people also have to stay warm.
“It’s not Game of Thrones here, it’s reality.”
Almost a year after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the world has become silent about the plight of the country and its people, who are facing one of their worst humanitarian and economic crisis in decades.
After the fall of Kabul, the international community declined to recognize the Taliban regime. Countries paused foreign aid and imposed sanctions. The United States also froze billions in Afghan state assets.
A country that had become reliant on external aid was left on its own. In the process, millions of Afghans were abandoned, too.
On a recent lunch break in Kabul, Ammar saw two girls, one about six years old and the other about three. One of them was lying down on the sidewalk, while the other was squatting next to a big nylon bag. They’d been collecting pieces of scrap metal on the streets to make ends meet.
“You could see that they were exhausted,” Ammar said. “You are going for your break and at the same time you can see two kids on the street, where they have no break at this age. It strikes you.”
And there are thousands of children like them.
“We are doing a massive job,” Ammar says. “But the sad reality is we can’t help everyone at the end of the day.”
A woman in Qala-e-Naw, the capital of the Badghis province recently told the UN-run World Food Programme (WFP) in Kabul how she made ends meet after her husband died five years prior.
“In the past, she said, she had a fair life, just getting by cleaning and washing for other people. After the economy collapsed, families have no money anymore to pay her and her work dried up,” said WFP spokesperson Philippe Kropf in an email. As a result, she borrows money to buy food, going further into debt.
“She told me she has not been able to buy cooking oil for weeks. She eats bread with tea and sometimes rice,” he said.
A young man told Kropf that “his family went to sleep many evenings without anything to eat in the past months.”
“They borrowed food with neighbours, but increasingly the neighbours have nothing to share,” he added, noting the young man had only completed second grade and was trying to find labour jobs to make ends meet. “But these jobs are getting rarer and rarer because of the collapse of the economy, too.”
The man participated in a training program to gain skills such as tailoring or mobile phone repair to earn a livelihood. The program trains 200 men and women over six months, during which participants receive food assistance for their families.
“After the training, (the young man) hopes to either open his own little shop, sewing clothing for men and children or to find work in a tailor shop and work for a salary,” Kropf said.
Prospects of famine remain
With the country reeling from recent droughts, and facing high inflation, a difficult situation is becoming even worse.
“For the first time, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities, marking the shifting face of hunger in the country,” Kropf said, noting some people are seeking help from WFP for the first time in their lives.
“The scale of the crisis in Afghanistan is immense, and needs continue to outpace available funding,” he added. The WFP needs nearly US $1 billion by the end of 2022 to help 18 million people – nearly half the population of Afghanistan.
Of that, the group urgently needs US $172 million to secure 150,000 metric tonnes of food to support 2.2 million people in remote parts of Afghanistan, which can get cut off by ice and snow in winter.
“We need these even more urgently because of the long lead-times for food commodities that we need to buy internationally,” Kropf said, including vegetable oil and specialized nutritious foods. “We need to get them into (the) country and then drive them into the mountains.”
The lack of funds in state bank accounts means civil servants aren’t being paid regularly, companies are shutting down and ordinary civilians face restricted access to their own savings.
Prospects of famine remain, said Ammar, noting that the main indicator is farming, which most people depend on to make ends meet. Farmers say climate change is resulting in less food production, resulting in extended periods when people don’t have adequate access to food.
Need for international aid
At the end of June, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit southeast Afghanistan, killing over 1,000 people and causing damage the International Rescue Committee described as “catastrophic.”
“This earthquake is a catastrophe for the people affected, but the response to the wider crisis in Afghanistan remains a catastrophe of choice for the international community,” said David Miliband, the group’s CEO and president in a release at the time.
“While humanitarian aid has averted famine for now, policies of economic isolation, the halting of development funding, and the lack of support for Afghan civil servants are unraveling the two decades of development progress that western leaders vowed to protect.”
He noted that families across the country face unemployment, leading to lower demand among local businesses which in turn leads to further job losses. He called for the international community to urgently provide funding to the country as well as “the phased and closely monitored unfreezing of assets.”
The question of frozen assets
Advocates for Afghanistan have criticized U.S.’s decision to freeze a portion of the country’s assets and decried a proposal for the U.S. to use some of them to support families affected by 9/11.
Afghanistan’s assets rightfully belong to Afghanistan, said Zubair Iqbal, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington.
However, while unfreezing the funds would help bring immediate help to alleviate Afghanistan’s crisis, the country will need more support in the long-term, said Iqbal, who previously worked at the International Monetary Fund for more than 30 years.
The solution is to grant foreign aid to Afghanistan in a sustainable way to allow recovery, while managing its spending through an independent entity, he said.
Concerns around a proposal in the U.S. to use some of the Afghan assets to support families affected by 9/11 prompted a group of Afghan women to write an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden in February.
“Taking funds from the Afghan people is the unkindest and most inappropriate response for a country that is going through the worst humanitarian crisis in its history,” the letter reads. “It is the squeezing of a wounded hand.”
Freezing the assets from the Taliban was the right decision, said one of the signatories in an interview, but they belong to the Afghan people and must be released to address the humanitarian crisis.
“My expectation from the international community is to put serious attention on Afghanistan,” said Roshan Mashal, former deputy director of Afghan Women’s Network, who left Afghanistan after the takeover and is now a fellow at the University of Texas at Arlington.
She called for coordination on how countries engage with the Taliban and to support the country’s people, as millions of Afghans face hunger and economic crisis.
“Don’t forget them,” she said.
“My Hijab instils British values in schools”
Wearing my hijab as a school teacher educates my students about British values and other cultures and religions.
As a secondary school science teacher who wears the hijab, I have had the opportunity to work in a variety of schools – including a state all-girls school, a Catholic all-boys school and a state mixed school. In every school environment I have worked in, I have always been met with respect by both colleagues and students.
Anyone who has worked in a school environment will know that pupils are always intrigued to know more about the personal lives of the teachers around them. This often helps foster a positive relationship in the classroom, and helps students feel comfortable and confident in class. I have been asked numerous questions about my age, my education, my marriage, and (being a visible, hijab-wearing teacher) my faith. I tend not to shy away from questions about my faith. I see it as an opportunity to teach students about the realities of Islam (which are misconstrued in the media).
The school I currently work at, in Surrey in the UK, has pupils from a predominantly white working-class background. Some of these pupils have never had the opportunity to openly ask Muslims questions about their faith. Since working here I have been asked questions such as:
“Why do you wear a scarf miss?”
“Do you wear the scarf at home?”
“Why do Muslims pray five times a day?”
“Miss, are you doing Ramadan?”
And my personal favourite was from a student who had picked up the word “Mashallah” (an Arabic word indicating praise or approval which means ‘as Allah willed’) from TikTok and asked me what it means.
Children, by nature, are curious about the world around them. As teachers, we are here to develop that curiosity and understanding. This job is not limited to the subject we teach. If we have a look at the National Curriculum Framework in England (for KS1-KS4), one of the key aims of the curriculum is to provide “pupils with an introduction to the essential knowledge they need to be educated citizens”. The Department for Education has also highlighted the importance of promoting British values within schools, which states that all schools “have a duty to ‘actively promote’ the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.”
Giving my non-Muslim students a safe space to ask me various questions about my faith and personal life allows them to see that, despite being a hijab-wearing teacher, they can relate to aspects of my life, which shows that I am not that different to them. This helps build a bridge between Muslim and non-Muslim communities, develops social integration and fosters those British values (of respect and tolerance) within students.
Having a hijab-wearing teacher also has another positive impact on Muslim students within schools.
The girls’ school that I worked at was a very diverse school in London, which had a large proportion of young Muslim girls. It was evident that being represented within the teaching staff, and having a teacher “like them” had a powerful impact on confidence, motivation, and (as a result) attainment. I noticed the ‘shy’ girls coming out of their shells, and starting to raise their hand more in class. It was also evident that they felt more confident talking about their culture and faith around non-Muslims. This phenomena exists across the globe, with the Center for American Progress reporting that an increase in diversity amongst the public school teaching force enhances student performance amongst students of the same background.
The power of representation is well known across all sectors of society. There was a particular incident at school where one of my colleagues, who was in charge of creating resources for PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) days, had mistakenly included some false information about arranged marriages and the Islamic Nikah (marriage contract). Upon seeing this, I was able to educate this particular colleague about Islam and remove misconceptions. This led to the colleague asking me to fact-check all the information on Islam she decided to use in her presentations in the future. As a school community, this led to all students and teachers within the school receiving the correct information about Islam and my culture. It is evident that both adults and children reap the benefits of representation.
It would be naïve to assume that Muslims in the workplace do not struggle because of their identity. However, it is only through becoming visible ambassadors of Islam that we can open up avenues to have positive, and educational conversations with those around us. The hijab is my identity as a Muslim woman. Being free to express my identity at work has enabled me to build strong relationships with both pupils and colleagues, which has made me the teacher I am today. We have a responsibility to make sure that all students feel the same confidence regarding their religion, culture, and identity within schools so that they can reach their potential and become ‘educated citizens’ of the future.
18 Year Old Massacres 14 Elementary Students and a Teacher in Texas
- Salvador Ramos, an 18 year old, entered Robb elementary School in Uvalde, Texas with a handgun and shot dead 14 children and a teacher before being taken down by an officer.
- The incident occurred at 11:32 am on Tuesday May 24th, 2022. Two reporting officers have also been injured trying to capture the shooter. Ramos has been reported dead as well.
- Ramos had also killed his grandmother right before driving to the elementary school.
- Investigation is still taking place as the school is trying to make sure all the other students are accounted for and handed off to their parents safely.
- President Biden is to speak on the school shooting this evening. Just this year, 2022, alone, there have been 27 school shooting incidents in the United States thus far.
Black Students in England Face Alarming Rates of Exclusions and Over Policing
Education is hailed as the key to establishing a world built upon more just foundations. But while this can definitely be the case, systemic practices in the West mean that educational institutions are not always geared towards being just. A recent Commission on Young Lives report in England shows that it is often in schools that racism and prejudices start, especially targeting Black students.
The report detailed the exclusion of Black students in schools, their adultification and the discrimination they face — from subtle racism to overt expressions of it. It shared the stories of many Black students who had been impacted by discrimination in their schools, and then proposed recommendations that schools should take into account.
Exclusions are a form of discipline practiced in schools across the West, but they often disproportionately impact Black students. Across England the report found that over seven years, there was a 55% increase in the number of students being permanently excluded from schools. Similarly, there was a 40% increase on temporary exclusions.
The upward trend in exclusions handed out to young Black students later leads to the criminalization of Black people and their overrepresentation in the country’s jails. Statistics prove that many of those who receive cautions or sentences for offences have previously been excluded from schools. For some Black students, when going to school is off of the table, they must find another way to sustain themselves. Stefan, someone who was excluded from his school, testified in the report that this was the case for him. “When someone gets kicked out of school [they are] pushed right into the groomers’ hands.”
Instead of teaching a child a lesson, like school discipline is supposed to do, the disproportionate rate of exclusions among Black students sets them up for failure and criminalization.
For some Black students, however, their exclusions have nothing to do with crime at all. Instead, they come from the discriminatory discipline policies that target Black pupils like the banning of black hairstyles, kissing teeth and fist bumps, among other things.
These policies do not only directly impact the education of Black people by kicking them out of school all together, on the basis of cultural identity, but they further the injustice against Black students by giving it an excuse to continue. When the school administration can penalize Black students for their forms of expression, students follow suit in teasing, bullying and discrimination against Black children. In the long run, then, instead of eradicating prejudices, the unfair treatment of Black students perpetuates them.
There is also significant evidence of over policing of Black students in British schools, leading to the adultification of young Black children. The term “adultification” describes a form of prejudice in which children from a minority group are made to seem less innocent based on their racial or ethnic identity.
The over policing of Black students comes as a result of the stereotypes that they are more aggressive, less innocent and the type of people to be protected from instead of the type of people to be protected.
In many cases, police have been found to treat young Black girls in a horrifying manner when called to schools for investigations, strip searching them at such a vulnerable age. It was found that although black Caribbean children make up only 5% of secondary school students, over 17% of strip-search cases are related to them.
The fact that the police and educational institutions are involved in the harmful treatment of Black students means that there is no one at an authoritative level that is taking a step forward in protecting minor Black children the way they should be. Subsequently, the disproportionate rate at which Black students are mistreated continues to skyrocket.
The unjust treatment of Black pupils in the education system means that they are not able to receive the same quality of education as the rest of their classmates. It was found that of all boys aged 15-17 in Youth Offender Institutions, only 50% have literacy rates above the average 7-11 year old.
When they are forced to spend more time worrying about the consequences of displaying their cultural identity or the implications of being treated way older than they actually are, Black students face statistically proven disadvantages. Down the line, Black adults find less job opportunities, are more highly criminalized, and have lower rates of graduation/post-secondary acceptance.
It is not enough for schools to simply be responsible for teaching students justice. The teachers, staff, environment, curriculum, policies and community will all have to exhibit behaviours that exemplify justice.
Educational institutions will have to take a step forward in the protection of Black children. That means understanding that there are differences in treatment towards Black students that are harmful. That means introducing better policies, race equality teaching for staff and students, ending policing in schools and hiring more Black staff in schools.
That means that Black children must be seen as children. Black children must be seen as learners. Black children must be seen.
We cannot only leave change up to the future, it’s got to start in the present. If education is where the change in our world is going to start, then the change must start with schools.
I am a student from Ontario, Canada, and an aspiring journalist. I enjoy reading, writing and learning about the world around us - the issues with it and how we can make it a better place.
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Omicron and the Holiday Season – The Health Report
Regulation changes around Covid treatment – The Health Report
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