Let’s break the cycle of black boys being failed by the education system
Monday, September 18, 2023
The discussion has been the same, over, and over, and over again. Nothing seems to have changed in the narrative of young black boys in education.
The outcome is and has always been bleak as negative stigmas are embedded in our minds whenever the subject of young black boys in education is raised. In a world that works to champion diversity and inclusivity, it's disheartening to acknowledge that some communities still bear the burden of stereotypes. Despite progress and strides towards equality, the stigma that clings to young black boys persists, casting a shadow on their potential and aspirations. How can we break free from this unjust narrative?
I am the founder of Diversify Education and Communities, a community interest company in Nottingham promoting cultural diversity and inclusion in schools, businesses and the community. One of our programmes focuses on working with young black boys in education. Our aim is to be enablers of change with regards to the disparities young black boys are currently facing in education.
I struggle to understand why over the years so many narratives, topics, and reforms have been changed for the better in education, but this crucial subject has been left needing urgent attention. We stand to lose so many wonderful, amazing, and positive world changers amongst our young black youths to the double-edged sword of the education system. Education is a valuable tool for everyone, not just youths, but as it stands in the UK especially, it can disadvantage young black boys in their life and career. Preconceptions, which are reinforced by the media, historical prejudices, and societal misunderstandings, depict them as violent, dangerous, or less intellectual.
Every young black boy who enters a classroom in England is not always guaranteed successful completion of their academic journey, this known fact is supported by an article published in the New Black Magazine. The article states that only 31.9 per cent of black boys achieved five GCSE A to C passes in the last year in comparison to the National average of 51.9 per cent and in addition to this there are twice as many Black men in prison as there are in university. I believe that this is to be blamed on severe and unnecessary punishments such as isolation, detention, and exclusions. I strongly believe that these punishments do not have a place in education for any child and are particularly damaging to young black boys, especially psychologically, and can also diminish their love and passion for education.
In Nottingham City, secondary school exclusion rates amongst young black boys are incredibly high at an average of 93 per cent.
Nottingham City has a large population of Black African and Caribbean residents and very strong links to the Windrush generation, this is something you would expect to hear coming out of such a city. The question is, why is this happening? What are the measures in place to bring this crisis to an end? If this continues, the future of our youth in Nottingham will be dismal and our current generation's future will not be a prosperous one.
Many schools believe that sanctions, aka punishments, paint them a good picture, especially where Ofsted is concerned. However, they fail to realise that the futures of the young black boys are far more important and are worth more than an Ofsted rating. Sanctions often lead to low expectations from teachers which then leads to a loss of interest in education by the child and eventually a downward spiral. Although a school may achieve a desired rating to put them in good stead with current and prospective parents, the problem of the young boy who has lost his interest in education becomes the burden of society usually for a long time or a lifetime. This has been the vicious cycle our boys have faced over decades and continue to do so. They are failed by the very system that is meant to enable and equip them to become positive contributors to society and nation-builders.
We must break the cycle. It is time we breathe new life into the system that has failed our boys over and over and give them a much-needed opportunity to soar beyond the negative historical stigmas. In the UK, the stigma associated with young black boys is a deeply ingrained issue that requires our attention and action. It's time to smash preconceptions, knock down barriers, and build a future where every young person, regardless of background, can thrive. The year is 2023 and it's time to change the narrative for our young black boys in education for the better. We need to strive to pave the path for a brighter, more equitable future for all by confronting stigma, creating inclusion, and empowering young black males. It will be that one opportunity that will become the start of a fairer and more equitable society.
Shanine Fasasi is the founder of Diversify Education and Communities, a Nottingham-based community interest company promoting cultural diversity and inclusion in schools, businesses and the community.
Fasasi is originally from the Caribbean Island of St Vincent and the Grenadines and in February 2017, she founded Diversify Education and Communities CIC as a result of her lived experience as a Black trainee teacher facing discrimination and misconceptions around her cultural identity. Shanine wanted to create a platform where cultural identity was accepted and welcoming for all. Six years later, Diversify Education and Communities CIC runs programmes promoting cultural diversity and inclusion in schools, businesses and the community and is a well loved organisation with a number of successful projects, celebrating culture and bringing communities together.