By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE
When the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) voted to establish an Africentric School in its system last year, there were those, both from within and outside of our community, who opposed it – some quite vehemently.
Prominent among the critics were the mainstream daily newspapers, especially the Toronto Sun. We are still not sure why.
Among those from within our community was a well respected, retired educator who was quoted by the Sun as saying that the best teachers would not want to go to that school.
We said at the time that it was a stupid comment, and wondered if this former educator felt that the best teachers would have a problem educating Black children.
This past week, the TDSB named Thando Hyman-Aman, the current principal of General Brock Public School in Scarborough, as its choice for principal of the new school.
And what an excellent choice she is.
Hyman-Aman is the daughter of Numvoyo and O’Brian Hyman, two of this community’s most committed activists/organizers from the 1970s. One would have been hard-pressed back in the day to not find them involved in any public activity, including street demonstrations, aimed at improving the lives of Black people in this city.
Hyman-Aman, a highly qualified educator who has been with the TDSB for some 15 years, has been involved in community education from her youth, first as a student of the Black Heritage Association (BHA), which later became the African Canadian Heritage Association (ACHA) – which, incidentally has just marked its 40th year of educating Black children in this city – and then as a teacher. She was one of the early students enrolled in the curriculum-based BHA/ACHA program and one of its many notable successes.
So, a young woman who has had the benefit of being educated by Black folks in a program dedicated to the education of Black children, will now be responsible for taking the lead in the education of our future Black leaders.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
This just goes to show the value of an Africentric education to Black children and should put to rest the concerns of those among us who still wonder if this school is a good idea.
After graduating from teachers college in 1995, Hyman-Aman taught at Brookhaven Public School where she also served as the literary convener. She was an equity instructional leader with the TDSB and a York University Faculty of Education course director and vice-principal at Chalkfarm Public School before becoming a principal in 2008.
“This is an excellent and exciting opportunity to make sure our children are able to grow, develop, feel nurtured and have the confidence to achieve excellence, which is what the new school is about,” Hyman-Aman told Share’s Ron Fanfair in a recent interview.
And, she should know. She has lived that experience – successfully.
Lloyd McKell, the Trinidad & Tobago-born TDSB Student and Community Equity executive officer, said of Hyman-Aman: “Thando has a long track record of commitment to the Africentric vision and a clear understanding about how the application of this vision into actual practice can meet the expectations of the community for a strong, vibrant and sustaining Africentric school.
Her mother, of course, could not be more proud.
“As parents, we teach our children, bring them up and we pass on certain values, and to see Thando has stuck with it and she has not given up on her community makes me feel so good,” she said.
We are also very proud of her because we too watched her grow up at her parents’ side.
Dr. Ronald Blake, the founding president of the BHA/ACHA program, which conducts its classes on Saturday afternoons, said at the organization’s 40th anniversary celebration last weekend that the program “has snowballed into a frontline warrior for the souls of Black children and the first crop of success stories would be the children of those early classes (like Hyman-Aman).
“To date, we have no record of a single child from that group who has failed in life or failed to develop a self-confident, positive attitude in society.”
We expect that the same will be said of the graduates of the new Africentric School in the years to come.