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What Parents Can Do To Balance The Unequal Opportunity Race

It’s not a secret that the black child has been disadvantaged in the opportunity race for quality education. From Africa to every continent or country with black people, far less education opportunities have been given to black children through underfunding, lack of infrastructures and a deliberate effort to ill-inform them on what the true challenges are beyond mere school curriculum. The Telegraph of 6 June 2018 explains clearly that most black kids in the UK leave primary school with good grades, but while in secondary, they aren’t positioned in such a way to make it into Oxford, Cambridge or other top universities. The demand of these top universities are “the highest grades at A-Level, the ability to pass an interview, and the stamina to take on the tutorial system,” says the Telegraph. It further says that “there is little evidence to suggest that poor and black children hate Oxbridge because it is too elite. Black students are not getting into Oxbridge because they are not getting the grades.”

I know of a number of black children that had the grades, were invited for interviews but couldn’t get in. Was it due to racism? I’m sorry to disappoint you, but on this occasion, the answer is no. Racism isn’t always the case – it’s not being positioned for the opportunities.

I sat in a church office some years ago where we were having an informal conversation. In the course of our exchanges, one man told the story of how her daughter went for Oxford and Cambridge universities admission interviews but couldn’t make it into any of them. He said when his daughter got to Oxford University for the interview, she sat quietly, behaving like a humble girl. She had been introverted from childhood, but very intelligent – she had distinctions in all her ordinary and advance level subjects but always minded her business.

As she sat down waiting for her turn to be interviewed, another interviewee came in. He was very outgoing – he shook everyone’s hand and engaged all of them in a conversation – most of the interviewees were unaware that there was a CCTV camera in the room, and their personalities were being observed. The boy got accepted, while most of them weren’t. Why? In addition to scoring distinctions, the boy had extra-curricular talents, which most of them never had.

There are five areas to focus on a child’s education, and these are; communication skills, technical knowledge, application of knowledge, researches, and looking outside conventional education, which is popularly known as talent or extracurricular activities.

Communication Skills

In the United Kingdom, for instance, when you see a child run her mouth (and they can really do that), you’ll be thunderstruck when you ask that child to write. Many young people can’t write, even adults. I was astonished when I read the assignment extracts of some postgraduate students. It was full of grammatical errors, and unfortunately, most are English people.

If you want a child to rule the world, the first thing he must understand is communications – knowing what to say and write, how to say and write it, and when to say and write it. The what, how and when are intrinsic and cardinal to the success of a child in life.

Deliberately, I give my children articles to write. Sometimes, I give them topics that’ll push their thinking. I know they might not be able to dig in too far, but it gives me the opportunity to explain more to them on the logic behind the subjects.

A child’s verbal skills must be developed, but far more, his writing skills need ruminative, introspective and contemplative development. With that, he can ponder and emerge with prompt and timely responses that’ll give him an edge, and silent his critics.

In communications, we must teach our children how to punctuate. I am woebegone when I read what lots of adults write – many can’t do simple punctuations. Don’t even mention what most adults write on the social media. You’re vulnerable to misinterpretation if you can’t properly punctuate your sentences.

Critical, lateral thinking and writing require effective communication skills. If we want our children to stand at the top, it is requisite that they must be exposed to unblended communication skills.

Technical Knowledge

In every object, subject or discipline, there are guiding principles. The guiding principles connect the dots in those subjects, and if you don’t know them, everything you say is twaddle and balderdash. When I ask my children what they learnt for the day, I am not only interested in how they communicate the information, but what they communicate. If they don’t get the connecting dots, I point it out to them. This is how they’ll win. Your depth are your connecting dots.

A peripheral understanding of a subject will not take our children anywhere – they must have the depths, so question them without pity on the depths, and if they don’t know, teach them if you can, and if you can’t, push them until they can. It’s depth that’ll take them to the top, unashamed. It’s depth that’ll help them beat their foes.

Application of Knowledge

Geometry goes beyond the mere calculation of angles, they need to know how to apply it in real world situations. Calculating profit and loss account is good, but they must know how to use it in entrepreneurship. Knowing the figures of speech is excellent, but they must know how to apply it in writing great articles and books. Knowledge without the ability to superimpose it in real life situations is a waste.

Our curricula must change – it must involve the application of knowledge because without that, our children will leave school without having a purpose and direction, like many currently in that situation. And if the curricula don’t change, we must change it in our own homes. We must sit them down and tell them what true education entails. True education is about the application of knowledge. Don’t let your children study what they can’t apply!

The Search

Anything I don’t understand, I go to Google, and if I want to watch it, I go to YouTube. If my children ask me a question I don’t have an answer, we all go to either Google or YouTube. We are in the age of search engines, so you have no excuse being ignorant. Teach your children how to search. My son is an expert in searching biographies – when I don’t know someone’s history, I call on him, and he’ll produce the result in minutes.

The social media isn’t there to watch depraved images – it’s there for them to research information and gain knowledge.

When I’m busy and can’t explain to my children what they don’t understand, I refer them to YouTube. On it are multiple answers. When you watch one video and you still don’t get it, watch another and another and another until it makes sense. It does surely make sense in the end. Teach them how to research!

Extra-Curricular Activities

Never kill the passion, talent of a child because of secular education – look for a way to merge it. Don’t stop the children from attending after-school clubs because it’s as important as the subjects they do in school, and this advice is mainly for African parents who only think education is mathematics and science. The drama group, football club, basketball team, debating society, and the rest of them are all very important. I was so proud when my son was involved in presenting a play in his school – he was also part of the football team until he sprained his ankle, but I’m glad when he does football punditry at home. He knows virtually everything happening in the major football world.

I was equally glad when my daughter played for the under fourteen British basketball and handball league, and was used as the face of the Hackney borough handball team – her image was used in a British newspaper. And if you watch the videos on my blog, you’ll see that my children featured on two or three of those videos – I’m teaching them how to do public speaking. Again, some of my videos were shot by them. My daughter just completed a year scholarship she was offered by a drama school, and I have a plan to enrol both of them in the drama school Star Wars Boyega attended when they’re sixteen.

I repeat, education isn’t all about mathematics and science – help them embrace their talents. If it’s music, encourage them to sing or play instruments. If it’s sports, encourage them to be involved. Don’t kill their passion with your rigid mentality.

I have seen first class products who can’t engage people, they can’t make eye contacts, and aren’t outgoing because from childhood, they only focused on conventions, and missed out on the bigger pictures. So, if the black child must excel academically and holistically, he and she must embrace all forms of education, formal and informal.


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Ken is a leadership Motivation, Strategy and Personal Development Writer, Blogger and Speaker. He writes for a number of magazines and blogs. He is also a mentor and published author of several books.

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