Is the way slavery is taught in UK schools appropriateSunday, December 02, 2012
A school was today forced to issue an apology for a history lesson in which pupils were asked to imagine they were slave traders.The students aged 13 and 14 were shown manacles, a whip, thumb screws and iron brands and asked to come up with a business proposal for how they would capture and imprison slaves in Africa. One part of the lesson pointed out positive aspects of slavery, such as “having an affair with a beautiful African slave girl”. The headteacher at Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School in Barnet said the lesson material has since been withdrawn and apologised on behalf of her staff for being “patronising” and for the “trivialisation” of slavery. A girl of African heritage complained to her mother, who contacted Pan African human rights group Ligali, which put in a formal complaint to the school. Kate Webster said: “I am satisfied it wasn’t a deliberate attempt to humiliate or denigrate in any way but it did demonstrate a lack of empathy for people’s heritage.” She said the child who raised the issue had “expressed concern and distress”. School governors were informed and “appropriate steps” had been taken in relation to possible disciplinary action against the staff member who devised the presentation. Part of the presentation had been used by other teachers since September 2010, but Mrs Webster said she only became aware of it last month after the complaint was made.
Ligali’s Toyin Agbetu described various elements of the material as “morally repugnant, insensitive and disrespectful”.