"British political culture is still coming to terms with the end of empire, the decline of

"great" Britain and the consequences of a long period of Conservative rule which has

sought to destroy collectivism while restructuring the economy around an alliance of

state asset-strippers and the financial classes of the City of London." [Mike

Tomlinson p2]

Initially I was going to consider the issues of anti-racist awareness and anti-racist

maths(see parts 5 & 6) as being the total of my reflections on race, however when I

put forward the skeleton I found this a great restriction. A great deal that was

important to me and that I felt was an integral part of my learning was going to be

ignored because I was not reflecting on my day-to-day experience nor on the history

of the development of my understanding so part 4 starts with this autobiographically

(and anecdotally), and parts 5 and 6 focusses on the specific INSET and

developmental work mentioned above, and then in part 7 I want to focus on one or

two issues concerning race that have arisen during my study.

Brixton Comprehensive was my first school and I took it as my duty as a professional

teacher in a multi-ethnic school such as Brixton Comprehensive to try to understand

the effects of racism on Afro-Caribbean students particularly, as they are the majority,

but also students from every background including, of course, white English-born. As

a teacher do you want the best for your students? I thought so, and I saw that racism

clearly had an impact on the work of black students. Subjectively a teacher judges

the intelligence of students and uses that judgement to exact standards from the

students. In my view there was clear evidence for underachievement - and racism

had to be in part a cause. It has to be noted also that at Brixton Comprehensive there

are still many white English students who consider themselves English born and bred

- with many of the bad attitudes associated with that working-class temperament, not

that racism is particularly a working-class phenomenon.

At the end of my first year at Brixton Comprehensive I had begun work at The

Gresham Supplementary Scheme. The Gresham was a scheme which had grown out

of the practice of Saturday schools in Jamaica in which many Jamaican students

would be interested in doing extra work vis-a-vis the three students from my

registration class I mention below. The Gresham extended this idea to evening

classes each day of the week. But there was more to the Gresham than evening

classes, it was a school established, set up and run by the community and as such it

gave a sense of pride and commitment to the students - and to the community.

Klein[p29] describes "the main aims" of Saturday schools as "motivating children to

succeed in the mainstream and enhancing basic skills while giving the children some

knowledge of their own history and achievements". I am convinced that, because I

was an established worker at Gresham, this influenced my being chosen to

participate with the ILEA team although I did have a reputation for being committed to

this area of work in other ways.

After a number of years I began to become disillusioned with teaching and was

planning to leave the profession. One important factor which decided my final leaving

date concerned my professional relationship with my registration class. At the school

we were encouraged to develop a meaningful pastoral relationship with the students,

and to begin this I started from year 1(now year 7) contacting the parents and inviting

myself round to their homes. Although this sounds extremely rude many parents

welcomed this involvement - others totally ignored it, and through the five years the

students were at Brixton Comprehensive I developed relationships to a certain

degree with the families. In fact this was sometimes negative because I felt that some

of the parents just said "Let Zanetti handle it at school, they cause me enough grief at

home". Anyway as I was getting more disillusioned I wanted to leave but I told myself

I will leave when 5YZ(Y for Yellow house) leave. As time developed many of the

class fell by the wayside, because of disinterest and disruption leading to truancy, but

I developed a good relationship with three girls in the class - Lorraine, Donna and

Shoran. The girls had come from a Jamaican background - typically one of the main

reasons these families come to the UK was to help their children, and because of this

background they were keen to work hard and "get a British education". Often they

would work after school. Lorraine and Donna had Jamaican parents but were born in

the UK, and Shoran was Donna's cousin living with Donna and her mother. Apart

from being in single parent families, to describe these girls as deprived is insulting yet

I think of the Walter Rodney term "underdeveloped", these girls were(are?) not

lacking in anything themselves as people but were actively deprived of many things

by the system. Especially in years 4 and 5(now 10 & 11) I did much extra work with

these three girls after school yet when their results came out they still failed. I had a

good reputation as a teacher amongst the students so I know that they did not blame

their failure on me. Many students in Inner City schools do have low self-esteem and

I feel that all that extra work we did together instead of benefitting them actually

increased the feeling of low esteem - I felt I added to some of their problems. I know

this is an emotional conclusion but despite people telling me the girls will have

benefitted from the extra professional attention overall I have a mixed reaction. This

emotional experience led me to classify these formative years as in part Educating for


Towards the end of my career at Brixton Comprehensive I had begun work at the

attached youth centre. The centre had like many others produced its own magazine

but we tried to get a magazine funded to sell on the streets. This was an excellent

experience to see the intelligence and awareness of these young people and also the

wonderfully encouraging responses from the community towards their youth. Through

this magazine I began to see more of racism outside the school environment but

whilst seeing that I felt extremely positive to the community and its achievements as

exemplified by the contents of the magazine(see Appendix 4A for photocopies of

contents pages). I have no doubt that my year on the magazine was the best

educational year for myself - I know the students as writers learnt a great deal as


But I realise now that working on that magazine was also a turning point for me.

Through the magazine I met many people and began to develop a fuller perspective

on education and its role in society. Some of the development concepts I had picked

up whilst working on anti-racist maths began to match up with views expressed by

many in the community and when I moved to Brighton I became active in

development work with organisations such as Oxfam, World Development

Movement and others. This context of development was clearly a political position, I

now realise, and soon I became active in promoting international work politically

through trade unionism.

When I arrived at Hove Comprehensive in Hove it was as if I had gone back in time.

Although there were many positive aspects to the teachers, in general their position

on Equal Opportunities was weak - a deputy headmaster was prepared to stand up in

full staff meetings and other group arenas and make openly-sexist remarks.

According to many of the teachers racism didn't exist in the school because there

were no black students - very few, mainly Bangladeshi, and no Africans when I first


What I learnt most at Hove Comprehensive in terms of race concerned the staff. In

my previous experience I had been taught about race from the students and the

occasional teacher(usually black). When I came to Hove Comprehensive I learnt about the

myopia of the staff concerning racial problems. Their blindness was encapsulated in

the above view that there were no black people in the school so there was no

problem. There was a small group of Bangladeshi students and, without getting

involved in the discussion here as to whether Bangladeshi are black, what the

teachers did not realise was the state of terror that existed in the Bangladeshi

community. The students were frightened to go home alone, they were timid, truancy

was a problem and, although they had some second language difficulties, they were

en masse under-achievers.

But the greatest learning experience was learning about the racism of the staff, and

that they could not grasp the need to educate against racism because all the

students, especially the middle-class whites many of whose parents worked in the

city, could have an impact on racism in society such as potential leaders, police,

teachers etc.

On first inspection here in Botswana the issue of race is surprisingly lacking but when

I began to examine the situation in depth I realised that many of the facets of racism I

saw in the UK have a counterpart here in Botswana. There is a clear theoretical basis

for this equivalence even though the analysis is political. Is race a consequence of

the class structure or is race a separate development? Lenin's book, Imperialism -

the Highest Stage of Capitalism, sees colonialism, or imperialism, as a consequence

of a capitalist mode of production, and because the colonial power, albeit as a

protectorate, is British attitudes in the UK and Britain have a similar base. Racism

and colonialism are connected as they both disadvantage black people. But this, of

course, could be countered by the cultural argument that race is simply a

development of tribal conflict. And the tribal issues have been around longer!!

Clearly the colonial situation must have affected Botswana to some extent. Here

again I am being vague because even the question of colonialism is not cut and dried

because Botswana, before independence, was the Bechuanaland Protectorate, and

as a Protectorate they did not have the direct involvement of British colonial rule. At

the time the mineral wealth of the country had not been discovered by the British so

there was no need to develop an infrastructure to export the wealth. Botswana

compares its own infrastructure with South Africa and Zimbabwe and wishes there

had been more involvement from the UK because they can see only benefits; hence

we have the current ties such as my contract here.

In the UK there were theories around concerning a microcosmic colonialism existing

in the country. Briefly this theory puts forward the idea that the historically African

communities in the UK are oppressed by the same system, forces and mentality that

used to oppress those in the former colonies. If that is the case then the theoretical

basis for comparison between the effects of racism in the UK and the effects in

Botswana clearly exists.

One example occurred recently in the English exam for the Cambridge Overseas

Certificate. There was much uproar because on the summary question which was

half the marks of the paper the passage was of a situation in the Far East and

included marine descriptions. As a landlocked country in Africa Botswana was not

happy with either situations hence there were many complaints. The Cambridge

certificate requires all students to pass English, and the Certificate is a passport to

many jobs so the fact that this summary was outside their culture was important. The

basis of multicultural education in the UK was to provide cultural familiarity to the

students, this lack of familiarity was clearly seen as a problem for Africans in UK

schools, and was evident, in this case, here in Botswana.

Another example refers to the girls I spoke of above. These girls were asking for

extra help because they were lacking in confidence. Confidence is a big issue (see

discussion concerning Gresham earlier) amongst Afro-Carribean students, and the

problem exists here in Botswana. Here the students are always looking for help to

such an extent that they cause problems when you try to get them to study properly.

They insist on talking to each other getting reinforcement from each other, and if peer

support doesn't exist then they continually search for support from staff. Confidence

is always an issue in an oppressed situation.

One further example concerned the use of language. The use of racist language,

such as nigger and coon, more and more is forbidden by school policies, and the

debate is usually concerning the level of punishment and counselling relevant to the

exhibition of such ignorance rather than whether they should be punished. Before

coming to Botswana we had to sign our contracts with the Botswana Ministry of

Education, and one clause gave the government permission to terminate the contract

and send the person home. I spoke to the government representative, and he said

that the only time someone had been sent home was for the repeated use of racist

language in the classroom!

As an aside to show my background and hence journey, (and also to show a

willingness to be self-critical!), I will describe an incident that occurred when I was at

school. At Sale County Grammar School for Boys in the sixties there was only one

black boy. I only knew him by his name, John Acton-Browne, I did not know him

personally - I was frightened of him because he was big, probably because he was

black as well and always getting in fights. One day I was having lunch and began

making statements like "some of these coons are OK" ie a statement which was

racist but not particularly aggressive apart from that. I was talking with friends but on

this table was a troublemaker, I think his name was Ian Liversedge. He was short!

Anyway he told me off. In my mind I wasn't being aggressive so I continued with my

use of the term "coon" - I know, I was not very mature or sensible at that age; have I

changed? I basically ignored him and I left the dining hall and went to the playing

field. He had followed me and started pushing me. I told him I was not looking for a

fight, and walked away. Eventually he kept going at me and in the end I hit him. A

teacher arrived and separated us. I remember telling the teacher that I didn't want to

fight, that this troublemaker was trying to start something, and that he was using the

words I used as an excuse. This other boy was taken away as he was more angry

and I have no idea what happened to him. The teacher let me go about my business -

playing football, and that was it! I remember saying to a black friend of mine a few

years ago how there was only one black boy in my school and he was always

fighting, and that was the first time I had realised how horrific a racist cauldron my

grammar school must have been. This incident must have occurred in 1966, the

teacher, who settled the fight, was new and yet there appeared not to be any

consideration of counselling for my racism.

As a further aside my father refers to black people as coons in the house but again

not aggressively yet he knows how long I have worked with black people as well as

living with a black woman for a few years. He uses the term coon as if it is a socially

acceptable description of black people, much as I did in the above incident that led to

the fight. At least now there's one advantage to being in Botswana, my mother does

not keep pressing me about getting married and having grandchildren!!

As a final aside I don't think what I've described as occurring in my family is

particularly unusual because the problem of these accepted racist attitudes is so

deep-rooted. Would you say I was a dutiful son if I didn't speak to my parents

because they were racists, if I had left the house last Christmas when I was back in

the UK because he had used the word coon? As it was living with a black woman has

left a deep scar in our family!

References to Part 4

Klein G "Education Towards Race Equality" Cassell 1993. ISBN


Rodney W "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa" Bogle-L'Ouverture

1972 ISBN 09501546 4 4

Tomlinson M Paper "Can Britain leave Ireland? The Political Economy

of War and Peace" in Race and Class Vol 37 # 1 1995

Institute of Race Relations. ISSN 0306 3968.


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