The large turnout at last Thursday’s Toronto District School Board (TDSB) meeting at the Africentric Alternative School following the suspension of principal Thando Hyman-Aman, shows that activism in this community is not completely dead. But it is often far too quiet. So the impact – and the surprise it must have been to board officials – of the crowd that turned out to support the school and its principal must be recognized.
We find it interesting that the day after the meeting at the school which was also the day after Share and other community media highlighted that Hyman-Aman had been sent home following an allegation by a mother of a student at the school that her son had been mistreated by the principal, the TDSB exonerated Hyman-Aman.
Was the sequence of events a coincidence, or did community activism speed up the process? We believe the attention given this matter, specifically community demand to have it resolved, played a part.
There is no question that the Africentric Alternative School, which was established after an uphill campaign by community activists and educators for some 30 years, must be protected. While we understand that in the face of a much larger challenge to ensure a higher academic success rate for Black students it will take more than just this one school, we are encouraged by the success it has so far achieved. It has already begun to provide an avenue for children in this community who need the kind of foundation that will best serve them as they travel through the education system.
If, as we well know, prevention is better than cure, it follows that it is better to actively ensure that our children have a good foundation than it is to have to fight later on to get our disaffected youth to step away from gang violence.
The lesson from the community’s response to this recent tension between a small group of parents and the staff at this alternative school is that activism by people of goodwill in this community is very necessary and must not lose steam. For where there is effort there will be success.
In recent years, far too many of us have become complacent, leaving us with little or no voice to speak to issues – some of them quite serious – that affect us.
It was the determined and tenacious effort of a small number of like-minded activists that pushed the Africentric School into reality. Similarly, it had been the ongoing and bold efforts of past activists that, for example, opened the doors of Canadian immigration for many from the Caribbean to the opportunities we enjoy today. Where would many of us be now had it not been for the determination of these people? (One of the excuses Canadian officials used back then to keep us out was that Canada was too cold for Black people.)
In the case of the TDSB meeting last week, it was good to see people come out for a change and speak up. It was also necessary. There are some among us who strongly believe that there are people in high places who do not want this school to survive and that the improper behaviour of a few of us is playing right into their hands. Whether or not this is so, the fact remains that if this nonsense is allowed to continue, we could end up losing this school. That has happened before with another TDSB school as we pointed out in last week’s editorial.
We need to continue to be vigilant where this school is concerned and to hold TDSB officials – especially those from our community who should be looking out for us but may not be – to account.
And, now that we have Hyman-Aman back, we need to know what the TDSB’s reason is for keeping another teacher, Ivan Dublin, away from the school. He is the Grade 4 teacher who would have inherited the Grade 3s who did so well, actually exceeding the provincial average, on this year’s Educational Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) tests. We understand that the children, who now do not have a permanent teacher, are clamouring to have him back. So, why is the board keeping him from the school?
Is it true that he has been on suspension for about two months while the board investigates complaints against him from the same parent who sidelined Hyman-Aman?