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GTA's First Africentric School Opens

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Joined: Jun/10/2009
Location: Toronto, Canada
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: GTA's First Africentric School Opens
    Posted: Sep/08/2009 at 4:56pm
Today marks the first day of school in the Greater Toronto Area and the opening of the first Africentric School in the GTA: Enrolment up at Africentric school September 8, 2009 Louise Brown EDUCATION REPORTER Canada's first Africentric alternative school opened this morning with 115 students - 30 of them new in the past five days. If enrolment continues to surge - there is room for up to 150 - the school may have to add another teacher and will try hard to find a male to join the current all-female staff, said school trustee James Pasternak, who represents the North York school hosting the program. "We hire on the basis of ability, but we do need a male role model, so we are going to be actively recruiting male talent," said Pasternak of the Toronto District School Board, standing outside Sheppard Public School on Sheppard Ave. west of Keele St. Sporting the school uniform of white shirt, black pants or skirt and vests of vibrant cloth from Ghana, children from kindergarten to Grade 5 were led into the school by teachers wearing African-inspired fabric and head scarfs. Inside the gym, west African drummers were warming up for the opening assembly, where children sang O Canada as well as the Black National Anthem, and read out a school pledge that starts with a vow to be "the best possible me." "I like seeing the posters of Martin Luther King on the wall, and other famous black people - and I want to play the African instruments," said Asmaa Mohamed, 9, whose parents will drive her in each day from their home in Mississauga to take part in the historic program. "Kids have to know their culture or they won't have a feeling of dignity - it's the confusion many kids feel that makes some of the violence," said her father Omer Mohamed, who came to Canada more than 20 years ago from Ethiopia. Dorrell Stone brought her daughter Nickeshia to start Grade 5 at the school "to learn about our culture, especially things done by the people of Jamaica." Long-time supporters of the controversial school, which won approval by a slim margin over critics' fears of segregation, were clearly emotional today to see the school finally open its doors. "It feels like all my children are here today," said Donna Harrow, one of two mothers who pushed for the school, first proposed in 1994 by Ontario's Royal Commission on Learning, as a way to combat a 40 per cent dropout rate among black students. "I remember the outrage when I suggested we try it as a pilot project back in 2005," said Lloyd McKell, the Toronto board's executive officer of equity, as parents, children and media clustered outside the school. Today's opening assembly began with a traditional African "libation" ceremony, where children watched water poured in memory of their ancestors. They also learned to respond to statements with the Yoruba word "Ashe!" (Amen!) Audrey Nakintu is sending her Grade 1 child to the school, "because obviously the public system grossly under-educates children about the people of the African diaspora. Black History Month is just a footnote; it's an insult." Mothers Rebeckah Price and Tamara Griffith have organized bussing to the school for families as far-flung as Mississauga and Scarborough, for about $275 per month. "We've had five more parents sign up in the last few minutes," said Price today. The school is open to children of all backgrounds. "We're also starting to organize a parent council," said Price, whose great-great grandfather was a runaway slave who established a community in Jamaica that continues to this day, she said. "I want my son to understand what black people have contributed, not just in Canada but the world in general." More coverage:
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