The legacy of slavery has had a negative impact on the self-esteem of people of African descent in many ways, including how we educate our children. With that in mind, the Commission on Pan African Affairs has established the “Mabalozi” programme aimed at changing this at all levels within the education system.
Facilitator Tempu Nefertari, said the word “Mabalozi” means “Ambassadors” in the Swahili language, and the programme was set up because “the commission wanted to [conduct] self-esteem workshops across the island, but owing to the high number of schools and the amount of work required, we could not cover all of them. So we established this programme to give teachers the necessary tools to carry out this work in the schools.”
She said teachers joined the programme on their own volition and explained some of its aims. “I use a technique I developed called the Nefertari Re-Ma’at Approach for building self-esteem in children of African descent. Because of our historical experience, teachers have what I refer to as a ‘teacher’s voice’ they use with the children, which is built on a Master-Slave attitude that does not serve our children well. One of the things we do in this workshop is to deconstruct that.”
She continued, “It is critical for teachers to change their attitude towards the children in their class. For example, that little boy who is constantly beating on the desk…is of African descent; he is subconsciously remembering a rhythm that is built into his DNA, so don’t punish him for that. Some children are kinesthetic learners, and once they are happy, they will learn more and they will learn better.”
During the opening of the three-day workshop at the Commission for Pan African Affairs’ head office in Bridgetown, Minister of Culture, Youth Affairs and Sport, Stephen Lashley, posited that the lack of self-esteem was one of the reasons the Caribbean had not made the progress it should have on the world stage. “ The damage done to our self-esteem as a result of colonisation has impaired our ability to develop in a way that makes us less dependent on countries outside of our region. So, while I commend the programme for starting in our schools, we must not limit it to just a select few teachers, but must also include people who assume leadership roles all across our societies.”
The workshop includes teachers drawn from nursery, primary and secondary schools across Barbados, as well as delegates from Antigua, Trinidad and Tobago, New York and Guyana.