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‘Morally repugnant' slavery lesson scrapped

HORROR: This is one of the few images depicting the brutal treatment enslaved Africans endured

A HISTORY lesson on slavery being taught in a north London school has been pulled from the curriculum following complaints.

Year 9 pupils at Queen Elizabeth Girls’ School in Barnet were asked to come up with their own Dragon's Den-style business proposal outlining their plans for a “slave raid” on the West African coast.

Students were given imaginary tools including manacles, a whip, thumb screws and iron brands to help them capture as many ‘slaves' as possible before building cages to contain them.

The PowerPoint presentation for the lesson showed the other methods at their disposal such as “bribing African chieftans”, “getting them drunk to buy slaves cheaper” or “even better, have an affair with a beautiful African girl.”

The slideshow was attacked for its “comical caricatures and sound effects”, by Pan-African human rights organisation Ligali.

HUMILIATED

The classroom exercise has been taught to hundreds of the school’s pupils over the past three years until a 13-year-old girl of African heritage complained that the lesson had left her “offended and humiliated.”

Ligali lodged a formal complaint after the girl's mother was disappointed by the school's initial response during a meeting between the history teacher and head of department.

In a letter to headteacher Kate Webster on October 25, Ligali representative Toyin Agbetu described the lesson as “morally repugnant, insensitive and disrespectful.”

He wrote: “It is clear to us that the resource concerned not only depicts an inaccurate and grossly unethical interpretation of African enslavement, but also trivialises the issue, thus promoting a racist, anti-African interpretation of the history.

“[The slide involving an affair with a 'beautiful African girl']…is morally repugnant…It is wholly inappropriate to suggest this was a positive outcome for the slavers who were engaged in torture and murder as well as kidnap, rape and enslavement.”

Agbetu said the tasks were like “asking a Jewish pupil to design a profitable oven for sale to Nazi Germany for use during the Shoah (holocaust).”

“It is not only insensitive, it is disrespectful,” he added.

Millions of African people lost their lives, were displaced or forced into a life of bondage during the 400-year transatlantic slave trade.

Mrs Webster wrote back “apologising unreservedly” and stating she shared Ligali's concerns about the material which has now been removed from the school's curriculum.

Speaking to The Voice, Mrs Webster said: “Sometimes you have to learn a lesson the hard way but that doesn't mean something positive can't come out of it. We are looking at what we do as a school, and we know we have some work to do.”

She added: “As a result, there has been lots of meaningful conversations going on and we need to make sure those messages go out to the whole school.”

The school will now be reviewing and rewriting the topic before it is taught next year following consultation with other schools on best practice.

Agbetu added: “This is not an isolated incident, but it reminds parents that they have the right to challenge what goes on in their children's classrooms.”

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