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Community consultations to improve education for African Nova Scotians

This month, the Delmore "Buddy" Daye Learning Institute held the first of three public consultations in Antigonish
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This month, the Delmore "Buddy" Daye Learning Institute (DBDLI) held the first of three public consultations in Antigonish.

Sylvia Parris-Drummond, the CEO of the institute, says they are trying to take knowledge from reports and studies, and put it to use in the real world.

"From all accounts it went very well," Parris-Drummond tells NEWS 95.7's The Todd Veinotte Show.

The next meeting of the group takes place in October, and a third will take place in the following months.

"There's been a lot of research done, there's a lot of reports that have been generated," explains Parris-Drummond. "And the community was saying so what? What change has been happening in that regard?"

The DBDLI is working with Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden at St. FX university, who is on board the project as lead researcher. Parris-Drummond says they have also received funding from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

"The significant piece that's missing is an organized way to have community come in and talk to us about what they know already, re-affirm what they told us through these reports, and then start to help us with solution-finding," she says.

Parris-Drummond addresses some issues that African Nova Scotian students have brought up at the meetings.

"We asked folks about what services and supports do you think should be in the school system?" she says.

Despite the fact that many schools have supports available, Parris-Drummond says students don't know how to use them.

"Positions like student support workers," she explains. "In some places, it wasn't communicated strongly that these folks can help you with getting information about scholarships."

Another recurring issue, she says, is that African Nova Scotian students are 1.5 times more likely to be on an "individual program plans."

"The design is to respond to a need that's identified and then the understanding would be that you'd be able to move off that, and to continue on your studies in school," Parris-Drummond says.

But black students often remain in the program for longer than necessary.

"That has a negative impact on you entering post-secondary," Parris-Drummond says.

The group has indicated that having dedicated spaces for black learners would be beneficial.

"Spaces in the schools so that African Nova Scotian youth can come together, self-learn in terms of what their experiences are in the school system and what they can do to support each other," she adds.

The community engagement sessions aren't just focusing on one level of education, but from pre-primary all the way through post-secondary.

"There was an ask for education about the contributions of African Nova Scotians as early as possible in the schooling years," Parris-Drummond says.

"We're looking at post-secondary as well in terms of what are some of the things needed in that regard for recruitment into post-secondary study, and retention."

Black students still report that they don't always feel at home in the classroom.

"Feeling like you're valued, feeling a sense of belonging, feeling like you're seen as a learner who can succeed so that you're supported in that way," Parris-Drummond adds.

The Antigonish meetings are a pilot project, and if all goes well the changes will be expanded across the whole province.

"We're going to try to think of some creative ways, like video, to share the information," Parris-Drummond says.

"Not be captured in a paper, or a report, and then be put on the shelf. It's important that we make use of it."


Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

Victoria is HalifaxToday.ca's weekend editor and a Halifax-based freelancer. She is originally from Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.
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