A PLAN to tackle food poverty in an inner city community has led to a new “supplementary” school being launched which will offer a “decolonised curriculum”.

Butetown Community Centre in Cardiff has launched a Saturday morning breakfast club but the centre’s chairwoman Hilary Brown said as well as providing nourishment, there was also an opportunity to provide a more rounded education for children and young people.

“We are attempting to tackle food poverty with the breakfast club initiative and also additional education for young people as we know education has been hugely disrupted by Covid,” said Hilary.

Though the initiative has been in the planning for three years, the long lockdown in 2020, which led to months of home schooling and children being taken out of school to self-isolate, has increased the need for additional support.

The supplementary school isn’t a new idea however. Afro-Caribbean communities in the UK organised Saturday schools from the 1960s onwards in response to racism within the education system that was failing black children and there was such a school in Butetown which is the longest-established multicultural community in Wales and one of the oldest in the UK.

“Saturday schools ran throughout the UK in various communities and there previously had been a Saturday school in Butetown many years ago and a lot of people have been keen to see the rebirth of that,” said Hilary of the volunteer-led school which launched at the beginning of July.

It is free and open to all with those attending aged from seven to 16, though numbers are currently limited due to social distancing requirements.

The aim of a ‘decolonised’ curriculum is to present education from a perspective other than that of western Europe.

“It’s looking at things that have traditionally been left out of the curriculum such as the reasons people migrate to different parts of the world and the contributions they’ve made to those countries. That is hugely under appreciated,” said Hilary.

Abu-Bakr Madden Al-Shabazz, who is one of the tutors leading the school, has run a black history studies programme at Cardiff University and believes teaching local history will help students understand their communities and their own backgrounds.

Providing that positive history will also be a platform, said Abu-Bakr, for learning about science and technology subjects and the contributions made by black people and civilisations other than European.

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Last year, Abu-Bakr was part of a working group, chaired by Professor Charlotte Williams, that identified the current curriculum as failing children from some minority communities in Wales.

The report was accepted in full by the Welsh Government and Abu-Bakr believes the school will help in the development of the new Welsh curriculum which is intended to empower teachers to broaden the experiences of pupils beyond a narrow range of set books and subjects.

The review found teachers want guidance and supporting materials to broaden the curriculum, with existing resources on black history “disproportionately focused on slavery, colonialism and Empire” and that resources about the wider histories of ethnic minority communities in Wales are needed.

Abu-Bakr hopes the Saturday school will empower its students: “They will see the relevance to what they are doing five days a week in school, it will feed into that, and by the time of the new curriculum the pupils will be ready to help the teachers with that information.”

On a wider scale, Abu-Bakr believes it is essential teachers are from more diverse and worries why there are so few teachers in Wales from black and other minority ethnic backgrounds.

Welsh Government figures from 2019 show of 35,545 registered teachers in Wales just three per cent, that is 1,066, teachers were from another ethnic group.

Despite having teaching qualifications from early years through to university level, in 30 years Abu-Bakr said he has never been able to gain a full-time teaching position in a Welsh school.

“I’ve been a qualified teacher for 30 years and I’ve applied for 300 jobs all over Wales and I’ve only had two interviews,” said Abu-Bakr who runs his own educational consultancy and said there have even been occasions when he has been overlooked for jobs that have been given to trainee teachers, before they have qualified, who were studying under him.

The Saturday school is run by the Butetown Community Centre and anyone interested in funding the school can contact the centre.

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