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Get history back into schools

Dr Verene Shepherd speaks at Centre of Excellence:

By \\\\\ Michelle Loubon

Dr Verene Shepherd, Professor of Social History, at Mona Campus, Jamaica, has said there was an urgent need to reintroduce history into Caribbean schools since students were leaving schools without any solid knowledge about their respective countries’ histories. She also said there was the need to go a step further and examine the historiography (systematic review of written history), rewrite the textbooks and erase the prevailing Eurocentric misconceptions. 

Shepherd made these comments Saturday after delivering the lecture themed In Their Name: Caribbean Women, Slavery and Reparation, at Andre Kamperveen Hall, Centre of Excellence, Macoya, Tunapuna. During the lecture, she had called upon Caribbean goverenments to honour more women as national heroines since they had fought in Emancipation Wars and to ensure they got reparations—including repatriation and resettlement in their homelands if they so desired. 

Among those present were Aiyegoro Ome, chairman of the National Action Cultural Committee (NACC) vice president of the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) and Chairman of the T&T National Committee on Reparations. He was joined by Liseli Daaga, wife of Chief Servant Makandal Daaga and Senator Embau Moheni, Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security. 

Asked to share her sentiments on history being taught in the Caribbean schools, Shepherd said: “What we have is the rhetoric that social studies is better than history. But what we are getting is the “watered down” version. Social studies has a little bit of economics, geography and history. What you find is the students are leaving school without a grounding in history. Unless they choose to do history as a subject for CXC, then there is no real emphasis on learning and studying history.”

Shepherd added: “The Ministers of Education in the region would do well to make it a compulsory subject. It’s sad they are leaving school without a clear knowledge about their history whether it is African, Indian or Portugese. There is the need for them to develop that sense of self-esteem and appreciation for their backgrounds. It is important for the development of their respective countries. We need to get back history into the schools.” 

 The Caribbean historiography is entrenched in colonialism, Indentureship and the Emancipation experiences. Shepherd said  there was the need to revisit  the historiography.

She added: “We have to do the textbook research and look at the Eurocentric view. We must look at the curriculum. We must also look at the selection of our textbooks and what is being taught to our children. We need to let our children know that Timbuktu is not a fictional place. It is a real place in Africa. There was a gold trade in Africa. The progress on the African continent was interrupted with the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. It is something Caricom needs to address because many times children and young people don’t want to associate themselves with anything African.”

She also paid kudos to Trinidad and Tobago for being the first country to celebrate Emancipation Day. Shepherd recommended students of history and adults to read prominent Guyanese historian Walter Rodney’s (How Europe Underdeveloped Africa), Frantz Fanon (Black Skins: White Masks), Lucille Mathurin Mair, the late CLR James Black Jacobins and the late Dr Eric Williams’ Capitalism and Slavery. She will deliver a lecture on the contribution of Walter Rodney, at the University of Warwick, England, on October 28.

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