Ike Awgu: Are Afro-centric schools here to stay?

Ike PicIke Jonathan Awgu is a lawyer based in Ottawa. He has written editorial columns for the Ottawa Sun, the Globe and Mail and hosted a national television show on the the Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC). He has appeared on TVO’s The Agenda, with Steve Paiken, as well as a number of other radio and television shows. He is also a frequent guest on Huffpost Live.  In 2003 at the age of 19 Awgu ran for Mayor of Ottawa, finishing third out of eight candidates with over 5000 votes.  www.awgu.ca


Are Afro-centric schools here to stay?

by Ike Awgu

So-called Afro-centric schools in Toronto have purportedly been a success – according at least to the Toronto Star and other, less high profile proponents of the idea, whose praise would likely occur independently of the programs actual success or failure. Nonetheless, what precisely is being celebrated? And has the program truly succeeded in any meaningful measure?  The Toronto Star, in a glowing and no doubt well meaning article about the schools, describes it’s students as ‘thriving’.  This is of course wonderful and likely to be true. The relevant question is however, whether or not, but for the afro-centric school, those same students would not be “thriving”. There are other tremendously valid questions of course (even if such schools were shown to enable a set of students to excel, that would not necessarily mean they had sufficient merit to be instituted) but setting that more complex point  aside, consider the manner in which success of such an initiative may be measured. The problem is, one would expect higher test scores and improved behavior from students who attend such a school, as the program (and this is important) will self-select parents who care more about their children and are engaged in their education. Parents are required to enroll their children in the program, which means it screens automatically for parents who are involved in the lives of their children, have done research on the program and are more likely to be intimately involved in their children’s education. In other words, precisely the criteria required to ensure your child is not dropping out of high school, underachieving or being, “pushed out” as some are fond of saying, prior to graduation.  It will be tremendously difficult to ascertain what academic success among students is a result of the program and what portion of the students would have excelled anyway. Conjecture on this point may for some continue forever, but I am unfortunately burdened by what I know – which is that the conjecture is unnecessary – specialized schools always self select the parents most interested in their children’s success.  So the quantitative results, although not yet in, will not be disappointing and will show improvement over average grades/ test scores. They will not however, plug the hole in the black community that gave rise to the need for such schools in the first place. Just as aboriginal schools (which already exist) have not and will not plug the hole that too many of its young people (they are our young people too) are tumbling through.

Facts are inconvenient things. For example, excessive consumption of chocolate makes you fat. Although I find this fact inconvenient, the laws of physics and biology pay no heed to my irritation when adding inches to my waist. And in a similar fashion, nothing will change the fact that the collapse of the nuclear family within a segment of the black community (descendants of slaves) is the primary reason so many of our children fall through the cracks to be broken against the hard steel of prejudice, racism, academic failure and depression.  So long as an enormous portion of black children – in the interest of speaking plainly here, children from the Caribbean and elsewhere who are the descendants of slaves – are being raised by single mothers, there will be no filling of the hole leading to their fall. No cushion the State can provide, large enough to prevent far too many from falling. Some, many, will inevitably be broken.

The real solution lies in telling our children the truth – that the best way to ensure their children succeed is to ensure they are raised by two parents in a committed relationship – in other words, two people who are married. Single parenthood has been a disaster for our community – indeed, as statistics bare out, for all communities in which it is prevalent. One person cannot do it all; no parent can be a father and a mother. The very notion that a single mother can be a mother and a father (I hear this often) is as obtuse as it is demeaning to the role of fathers in a home. So long as this remains a problem, no amount of ‘specialty schools’ will save our children or the children of any other community. Parents are the first teachers any children meet, their home the first classroom. Let’s take a long, hard and honest look at that ‘school’ before prattling on about the others.

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