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Tuesday, 8 January 2013



Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove proposes removal of Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano from the National Curriculum.

 Historical figures such as Mary Seacole are not just part of black history but British history and everyone’s history. Her achievements in the face of prejudice are inspirational and her contributions are of interest to all children.

When my son was small there was no black history taught in his school and I taught him at home. He had regular black history lessons so that he could grow up knowing the great achievements of a diverse range of historical figures providing him with a positive experience of history lessons.

During black history month my son came home from primary school one day with a request from the teacher for me to provide some black history books and resources so that she could provide a black history event for his class.

I was later informed by his teacher that this request was made because she had planned a lesson on Mary Seacole. At the start of it she asked the pupils to put their hand up if they knew anything about Mary Seacole. My son’s hand shot up and when he finished telling all he knew there was nothing more she could teach the class because he knew more than she did.

As a school governor I worked with the head of history to ensure that black history was taught, shared my knowledge, books and resources and as a spoken word performer delivered  workshops at the school to teach children black history and promote multiculturalism.

Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano were not just put on the curriculum – they are taught in schools today as a result of tireless campaigning over many years enriching the educational experience of children of all races. We live in a multicultural society where the achievements of all who have contributed should be taught and celebrated. But according to Gove they are not traditional enough to be taught. What is tradition if not based on our multicultural history?

The Con-Dem coalition have already made clear their opposition to multiculturalism, they are proposing to reduce our protection against discrimination in law, have made severe cuts to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, their austerity measures have impacted disproportionately on black communities including on black history month activities and events so it is of no surprise that they would seek to write out our contributions in history. Black history is not just a month and our contribution to UK History should not be ignored or dismissed.

We all benefit from a true understanding of history and the better our understanding the more likely we are to learn from the past. The experience of our children at school will be enriched from the knowledge we gain of shared histories and we can promote equality and multiculturalism by understanding the great contributions of historical figures such as Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano in the face of adversity and prejudice.

I am proud to be part of the campaign opposing these proposals and urge you all to sign the campaign petition by OBV and to share this widely with your networks.

Zita Holbourne

National Co-chair BARAC UK, Spoken Word Artist

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