Tue, 01 Dec 2020

LONDON, July 6 (Xinhua) -- It was during her trip to New Zealand when she was 21 years old that Lavinya Stennett came up with her idea for The Black Curriculum.

She'd spent a large part of 2018 studying Maori history in New Zealand, and the impacts that colonialism had had on it. She found that many of their experiences were parallel to what her black community in London had gone, and were going, through.

"Colonialism, both here and in New Zealand, has wiped out indigenous history. It has wiped out African history and the contributions of those people," Stennett told Xinhua.

From that experience, Stennett spent her final years at SOAS University of London working on The Black Curriculum concept. Her idea was to go to schools and start teaching the black history that colonialism had erased in a way that would be engaging for children, using art forms like poetry and drama to help students get to grips with black history.

Two years later, the enterprise now runs programs and workshops for children and young people aged eight to 16 across Britain.

But Stennett is looking further than daily workshops. She's part of the many voices looking to change the national curriculum to become more representative of the British full history -- with a focus on black British history.

Recently, there have been calls for the history curriculum in Britain to be updated to make it more diverse and reflective of Britain's multicultural society. This, Stennett believes, will help to facilitate social change in Britain, and create a fairer society.

"For me, it's really important to have black history to have more conversations and diversity within the way people connect, not just having people who are different but in the ways that they interact with one another," she said.

"I think if we were to have a conversation from the curriculum from the start, and not just in university, we'd come to a place where we're able to engage in more truthful ways. That would build a tighter society," she said.

A report released this year by Jason Arday, titled The Black Curriculum, set out to explore how Britain's current History National Curriculum "systematically omits the contribution of black British history in favour of a dominant White, Euro-centric curriculum that fails to reflect our multi-ethnic and broadly diverse society".

The report draws a number of conclusions and suggestions about how teaching black British history in more depth can impact the curriculum.

Arday argues that by teaching black history, it not only gives black children a sense of identity, but also benefits British society as a whole -- allowing the nation to "collectively pause and reflect on race relations."

Stennett also believes that there should be wider recognition for the parts black people have played in the shaping of the British society, and the history children currently learn in schools is not wholly accurate, or in full detail.

"This limits their opportunities and futures in an increasingly diverse landscape," she said.

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