BY: KATHY MCDONALD
Last week the effects of poverty on educational outcome, the importance of parental involvement and the role school boards and educators play in student achievement were examined. Now that we have a better understanding of the effects of poverty, we are ready to move forward and actively pursue inspiring “success, confidence and hope” in all students.
Poverty is not a valid reason for students underachieving. As an educational system, we have a moral duty to care for the whole child, an ethical obligation to strive to encourage all students to reach their full potential and a duty to care and nurture students. Peel may have high poverty areas but we also, within these areas have an often untapped resource, the brilliant minds of the students. These minds are eagerly waiting to receive equitable opportunities that will enable them to develop to the best of their ability. Parents, it’s important to do your homework and partner with your child’s school. Guardians, keep the lines of communications open, ask questions, read notes and agendas, check out the school’s web page and sign up for Twitter and any platform used to communicate with parents. Parents, you know your child so don’t settle for status quo. Pay close attention to the success criteria established for your child, be an active participant in your child’s IEP (Individual Education Plan) if they require one, review the OSR (Ontario Student Record) periodically especially if changing schools, discuss all standardized tests and explore all the different educational opportunities available. If your child has special educational needs make sure they are getting the necessary accommodations or modifications.
We have to stop viewing poverty as an excuse for students not reaching their full potential. Poverty is not the reason. Many people have survived poverty only to become successful, positive contributing members of society. Canada is full of African, Black and Caribbean people that have survived despite and in spite all the obstacles that were thrown at them. When we closely examine the reasons that are attributed to their success, words like resilience, determination and a good work ethic are the foundation for most.
We don’t have to look far when we to get examples of Canadians that have done amazing things even though they came from humble beginnings. Names like Lincoln Alexander, Jean Augustine, and Viola Desmond probably first come to mind. However, there are countless individuals that are making great strides in Ontario and Canada like Jennifer Young, Jeffrey Orridge, Althea Coke, Abigail Hamilton, Ingrid Brown and Omari Rhoden. The aforementioned list includes a doctor, a corporate executive, a lawyer, an advocate, a deputy chief of police, and a teacher. Yes, these individuals are real and they are not a one in a lifetime novelty. There are many more just like them just quietly, and some not so quietly going about their everyday lives and making a huge difference in society.
Black excellence is all around us and as a community, we should challenge all the negative stereotypes that society throws at the community. When the media is unfairly reporting or being biased in the coverage of a story we should speak out. At a minimum, we should talk to our kids and discuss the ludicrous portrayal of African, Black and Caribbean peoples. We should also compare how members of our community are being portrayed to how members of other ethnic groups are being portrayed. When colleagues, acquaintances are making derogatory remarks or constantly negating our community we should speak up and insist they change the narrative. Our community is an asset to the Canadian society. We have more examples of black excellence than we do of black delinquency.
The fact that last month many black children, well, in fact, many black boys placed in the top three (2 first place) in the National Spelling Bee of Canada’s Brampton Regional finals, in all categories, won’t make the headlines, does not mean it did not happen. It did. A black male student placed second in the 17th “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency at Brock University and is heading to China in July, but it won’t be on the front pages of any paper. Black children are being awarded many prestigious scholarships. Brampton’s very own Eden Wondmeneh from David Suzuki Secondary School was named one of the recipients of the Loran scholarship for 2018. Yes, that’s right. This remarkable young student received this $100,000 scholarship and then some. Just read the impressive biographies of the individuals that were honored last weekend at the Harry Jerome Awards. I could go on, but I would monopolize the entire paper. I am sure you get it.
Black excellence is all around. We must expect it, we must demand it and we must share these great stories. It is important for our children and their children and the generations that follow to know about these stories so that the cycle of poverty can be broken. Such narratives serve as an important fountain of strength and a source of inspiration. Research has shown, kids do better when they see themselves positively reflected in the curriculum and society. Children do better when they have high expectations set for them. Children do better when a champion, at least one champion is invested in them enough to make sure that they don’t become another statistic. So, journey with me as we work together to break the cycle of poverty by educating and uplifting our children. Walk Good. Belle Marché!