Why these kids want more Black history in schools

Story by CBC Kids News • 2021-02-11 07:00

Asking for better representation in the classroom

Some Black students say they don’t know much about their own past.

“I don’t know where Black people came from,” said 10-year-old Anthony Darrigan from Halifax.

Anthony’s Grade 4 teacher, Wendie Poitras, told CBC News that this concern has become more urgent after the surge in anti-racism protests last year. 

This is why students, educators, parents and groups across Canada, such as British Columbia’s African Descent Society, are pushing for more Black history in schools.

The African Descent Society submitted a campaign to the Vancouver School Board that aimed to cover gaps in education, which didn’t touch upon B.C.’s African descent history.

boy smiling at camera

Anthony Darrigan, 10, wants to learn more about historic young Black leaders in school. (Image submitted by Allie White)

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia doesn’t have any mandatory courses on Black Nova Scotian history in elementary schools.

It is included in social studies classes through junior high.

“It doesn't make me feel sad, but I feel like we should learn about it more,” Anthony told CBC Kids News.

He said he wishes that his classmates and teachers would talk about Black history more in the classroom.

“I would feel proud,” Anthony said.

More Black role models

Belan Tsegaye, a 17-year-old from Regina, has also been pushing for more Black history and anti-racism courses in schools.

Belan agrees that school curriculums need more Black role models for students.

She said that learning about positive influences that look like her would help her love herself more.

“I’ll be like: ‘Oh, you know, you are like a successful person and you're Black and you're Canadian, wow, that is amazing,’ ” she told CBC Kids News. 

four teens hold signs

Belan Tsegaye, 17, second front he right, said she wants school curriculums to include anti-racism courses and to teach more Black history. (Image submitted by Belan Tsegaye)

“Just the fact that knowing I look like them and that I could one day be like them is enough to make me happy.”

Belan said seeing more of these role models earlier in school might have helped her love her hair, skin and accent more.

More history, less racism

Belan said that learning specifically about Black history can help reduce incidents of racism and bullying.

“We need to learn about slavery, segregation and all the trauma Black people went through,” she said.

She wants students to learn these things in school, instead of having to go search online.

“I learned from resources outside of school, such as Instagram and social media, but I wish I could learn it in school.”

Belan also said that education is failing students if they don't know right from wrong, such as how using the N-word is hurtful and innapropriate.

Curriculum Changes

Last November, the Vancouver School Board accepted the B.C. African Descent Society’s proposal.

Next school year, there will be a Grade 11/12 course called “African Descent History in British Columbia.”

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