For decades, it has always been the dream of most African youth to relocate to the U.S, in particular, to further their education with high hopes of securing jobs upon completion.
However, some African-American parents in the U.S are taking a different path – relocating their children to Africa to start formal education, despite the pristine environment and resources at their disposal.
Most of the parents Face2Face Africa had a conversation with had different reasons, but they concluded that despite the hardship and poor political decisions the ‘dark continent’ grapples with, it remains the brightest spot to bring out the best in their children.
For most of them, it is not about the standards when it comes to comparing the levels of education. They fear the future of their kids is not guaranteed in an environment which openly discriminates against them.
The concerns of some of these parents were encapsulated in a Brown Center Chalkboard report, which highlighted four key challenges that many African-American students and teachers face in U.S. schools.
The report titled: “Research and reflections on African-Americans’ experiences in schools” noted that black students and even teachers are faced with gaps in achievement and opportunity, implicit bias, teacher diversity, and school discipline in the US.
Andrea Lee, a Dance Educator at Oakland, California corroborated aspects of the report by Brown Center Chalkboard. Over the years she has been facilitating trips for some of her students in the US to Africa. She said they usually feel at home when they find themselves on the continent.
“I do bring college students and have brought my own daughter to Ghana four times since she was nine years old. My (big) students share how they sense a big weight lifted from their shoulders because [they] are relieved from the racial biases they mitigate on a regular basis in America.
“They share how their spirits are lifted and that the welcoming environment brings about a sense of unity and happiness never felt before. They talk about their perceptions of being safer in Africa and how they wished they could run around and play outside in their natural environments and that their overall experience being in Ghana felt peaceful and liberating,” Lee revealed.
Discrimination against blacks is not the only reason forcing these parents to relocate their children to Africa. Most of the parents Face2Face Africa engaged believe the values of the leader of the Free World will adulterate their children.
“Over here, everything is virtually allowed and you can’t afford to raise kids in such environment where it becomes difficult to even decide when they should begin to have sex. Who does that?” Dorothy Simpson, whose daughter is currently schooling in South Africa, told Face2Face Africa from her New York base.
She added: “We hear of a lot of gun violence in schools almost every day. I can’t take chances anymore. I had a sister who nearly lost a son in one of such gangsters’ fights in schools. We had to send him back to her brother in Nigeria to preserve his life. The best place to bring up a child is Africa.”
Simpson is not alone. Another African American mother, who had relocated to Ghana, believes her children will rather get the best care and attention in the West African nation than in the U.S.
“I absolutely have no regrets about moving my children here [Ghana] and having them school here – one of the best decisions I have ever made. I think they will agree as well,” the mother of two, who wants to remain anonymous confided in Face2Face Africa.
She narrated how it all began.
“My children attended a predominantly white independent school. If he stayed I am convinced that they would have destroyed his potential. After many rounds of psycho-educational testing they determined he had ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder] and defiance disorder. When my husband who is Ghanaian received a job offer here I decided we should all move (my children’s schooling being one of the most important factors in that decision).
“Fast forward four years. My son aces his O levels, gets a 760 on math SAT 570 on English, isn’t satisfied so he retakes. He received no extra time and was not taking any medicines, what he did have and does have are teachers who hold him to the highest standards and expect the best for him. I shudder to think what they would have done to him had we stayed in the US,” she stated.
“I recall one of his teachers who believed in him (a white Jewish woman) told me when I shared that we were moving that getting him out of that environment was the best thing I could do for him. She was right.
“I didn’t receive any resistance from relatives although I did get questions from colleagues – why would you move to Africa. I would always respond, you know me, would I ever put my children in an environment where I didn’t think they would thrive,” she stressed, however, she added: “My son will attend university in the US. He knows his self-worth and capabilities and he is comfortable in any setting. He intends to study abroad and knows he can succeed in the US, in Ghana or anywhere else in the world. For now, it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
On her part, Tahiru Mohammed, whose son is half-Ghanaian wants to inculcate cultural values in her boy hence the decision to relocate.
“I’m raising him here to also learn the culture… I also want him to be a [good] teenager – I feel he can do easier here in Africa than in America even though there are issues in Ghana now like kidnapping but overall he can be a teenager here,” she remarked to Face2Face Africa.
“He likes it here… So I’m making a sacrifice for him when it comes to education.”
Lee, mentioned earlier, also drew Face2Face Africa’s attention to one key reason motivating African-American parents to send their children back home to be part of the formal education system.
“For a long time, some African parents have not been teaching their children their native tongue. I have several students who are first generation born USA. Their parents did not allow them to speak their various native languages at home, i. e. Yoruba or Ewe or Twi for example and now their child only knows English. The thinking was to have them become a better integrationist into American society or thinking dual language learning would somehow negatively impact their child’s ability to speak English well and therefore their plot in life. In turn, some students are no longer curious to learn and some have regrets that they never learned how to speak their African languages,” Lee noted.
She added: “Connecting historical legacies and affirming African identity is also at the core of why many of my students want to come to learn in Africa… of course I am merely speaking of short-term study abroad and the impact their global experience in Africa has on their mental and social health.”
Despite its plethora of challenges from economic to political instability, Africa seems to be playing a significant role in molding America’s future. The likes of Mohammed will not hesitate to encourage their African-American peers to take similar course.
“I don’t have any regrets coming here. It helped him have a broader view… it has really given him a lot of experience to deal with people of different cultural background,” Mohammed concluded in her conversation with Face2Face Africa.