For Immediate Release
On May 28 the programming department of Halifax Regional School Board presented its annual assessment results for those students in grades 3 & 6 to its elected board members. The Black Educators Association of Nova Scotia would like to provide the following press release with reference to students of African ancestry. The position the BEA will undertake is one of inquiry as we recognize that the HRSB has made an effort under its new leadership to demographically identify serious concerns about the capacity of the current educational policy agenda to prepare African Nova Scotian learners for the new millennium.
With this in mind the BEA would be remiss not to acknowledge that 2014 marks the sixtieth anniversary when the word race deleted from legislative acts including the education act of Nova Scotia. Arguably, although segregation ended as a direct result of the Viola Desmond case of 1954, it still exists for African Nova Scotians who make up in some instances 42% of some
chool populations within the Halifax Regional School Board. Increasingly the number of students of African ancestry on Individual Program Plans, diagnosis for Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Oppositional Defiance Disorder far exceed comparative averages for their educational compatriots where African Nova Scotians fare worst followed by First Nations and Acadians (Thiessen 2009:1). These imbalances have persisted despite well-intentioned efforts by educators and policymakers to develop and implement programs designed to increase the enrolment, retention and graduation rates of students of African ancestry.
The Black Educators Association (BEA) which was founded in 1969 was originally called the Diogenes society. Its goal was to assist African Nova Scotian communities to develop strategies toward an equitable education system. The Association now in its forty-fifth year of existence has continued to foster a climate of equity where inequity has existed to meet the challenges and barriers facing students of African ancestry in the Nova Scotia public school system. In short, the potential loss of resources-intellectual, cultural and economic-resulting from the lower achievement reduces the capacity of African Nova Scotians to be productive, integral and contributing members of their communities. The BLAC Report (1994) also marking its twentieth anniversary, discusses these aspects of cultural isolation, institutionalized discrimination manifested in the academic labelling process and low teacher expectations. To the Black learners, how does higher education increase its appeal to the board segment of Black society that seemingly does not believe, or trust, that the educational system works to its advantage?
Our vision of a quality education system for Black learners in Nova Scotia entails a system that is accessible and equitable from the perspective of Black learners and their parents.
The recent release of the Provincial Assessment Results 2013-14:
Grade 3 Reading, Writing
Grade 6 Reading, Writing
of the Halifax Regional School Board on May 28, 2014 are unacceptable.
The Black Educators Association has been a long-time advocate for disaggregating data based on race but also identified by community and district. BEA has concluded the most popular educational policies over the last thirty years rarely mention race, diversity or the demographic of racial/ethnicity within the public school populations. BEA continues to argue that this ineffective, colorblind approach to educational reform ignores the racial disparities and racial inequity when implementing policies & protocol procedures. Within the Public school system this can reinforce the inequities in educational outcomes. It is evident what actions must be taken “to right the wrong”. For any efforts to be constructive, agreement must be established with the African Nova Scotian community regarding the journey and destination of any recommendations, goals, strategieor action plans provided by school boards or government.
Experience has taught us that social and institutional change does not often come out of the good will of those in power. The problem has always been a lack of commitment to real change. It is only when the African Nova Scotian community has used sustained and determined community actions that there has been reaction to addressing our concerns.
Community groups will have to be mobilized into political action to bring about change and seek legal remedies. We cannot allow the educational experiences and needs of African Nova Scotian learners to be marginalized or negated, thus limiting their opportunities and possibilities for success in the Canadian society.
Mr. Kenneth M. Fells
President, Black Educators Association
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