BELIZE CITY, Wed., Nov. 25, 2015–In one of Bob Marley’s songs, he challenges the masses to “emancipate yourself from mental slavery;” a lot of that mental slavery has to do with the way we were taught in school. Some of those lessons were meant not so much as to educate, but more to keep us ignorant, and in so doing, control us.
St. John’s College High School made a bold step by going against the traditional curriculum when in 2013, it introduced African History and Mayan History into their curriculum.
Today, the History Department of St. John’s College High School held a presentation where the first form curriculum of the African History and Maya History and the second form curriculum of Belizean History, along with the e-readers, which are connected to their website belizehistorysjc.com, were formally presented to the Principal of St. John’s College High School, Yolanda Gongora.
At the presentation, which was held in the Art Centre of St. John’s College Campus, Delmar Tzib, the history teacher who was a collaborator of the program, in his speech said that: “One of the first aims of the program … was to teach history from the perspective of the oppressed, and not from the account of the European.”
Yasser Musa, Head of the History Department at St. John’s College High School, in addressing the student body and other invited guests, said, “In first form we teach Africa as the birthplace of humanity … because we believe in providing our students a solid clarity to root line, therefore dispelling ignorance and retrograde perceptions about who we are and where we came from.”
Musa credited the publisher of Amandala, Evan X Hyde’s influence, who had repeatedly called on SJC, his alma mater, through his newspaper, to introduce the teaching of African and Mayan History.
Mr. Musa told Amandala that while British History or French History may be good, teaching African or Mayan History is more appropriate, since a large portion of our population can identify with either one of them.
Yasser said, “The first form students study African civilization from August to December, and in the second semester, they study Mayan civilization, because we want our students to make connections, not to a fantasy Maya created for brochures and tour guides, but to the living Maya of Belize, fighting for land, for survival, to live and participate in the multi-cultural space of our modern society.”
Musa added that what they will learn is a sense of identity that will make them more confident. Musa said, “When they are firm in their cultural and contemporary roots, they are better able to move forward.”
Nicholas Staines, a second form student, told Amandala that in the 1970s when his dad attended SJC, he was taught history from the European perspective, but he is very grateful in this era, that that has changed.
Devin Pitts, a third form student, told Amandala that by taking history he learned that the Africans had Pharohs and were highly intelligent.
Michael Panton, Jr., a second form student, told Amandala that he was surprised by what he was taught; he pointed out that many times Egyptians were portrayed as being white, but he learned that Egypt is in Africa, which means they have many black people living there. Panton added that being taught African history made him feel proud of his heritage, since he learnt that the Africans were modernized.