NewVIc hails African Studies Centre as ‘first of its kind’

NewVIc has set up an African Studies Centre. Picture: Google

NewVIc has set up an African Studies Centre. Picture: Google - Credit: Archant

A centre aimed at transforming the teaching of black history in schools has been hailed the first of its kind.

Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc) in Prince Regent Lane, Plaistow, announced the launch of its African Studies Centre on Friday, October 23.

It aims to equip teachers with the skills and knowledge to teach students about the history of Africa, but not through the lens of European colonialism.

Lecturers, Carina Ancell and Alan Kunna, came up with the idea while researching a book on Charlie Hutchinson, the only known black British volunteer in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War.

Carina said: “As far as we are aware there are not currently any schools or colleges in London offering a comprehensive super curricular African Studies programme.

“As such, this is a real opportunity to develop expertise amongst the capital’s teaching community whilst developing students’ interest in and appreciation of African history.”

The team behind the centre hope to challenge the way Africa is presented in schools by exploring the periods before colonialism as well as how civilisations recorded and voiced their histories.

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The national curriculum dictates Key Stage 3 pupils should be taught a syllabus which enables them to learn how people’s lives have shaped the country and how Britain has influenced and been influenced by the wider world.

But the Runnymede Trust found in 2019 there are differences in how schools deliver lessons on British imperialism and migration.

Academies are not legally required to follow the curriculum.

A survey taken by the trust and the universities of Cambridge and Manchester found many teachers wanted more support to boost their confidence in exploring issues.

“All teachers, regardless of cultural background, must be encouraged to engage with this important section of history.

“We believe it is really important teachers who may not have a background or specialism in African history feel confident and supported in delivering materials,” Carina said.

The hope is the centre will broaden the history taught in schools and change perceptions and public knowledge of what the history of the British people actually is.

“Many black and Asian students need to be encouraged to discover the relevance of their own histories in relation to current events in Britain today, “ Alan said.