EDUCATION AND THE CITY
As we enter the month of September and students, parents, and educators are among the like that prepare to return to school after an almost 7 month closure, Ontarians have been watching Education Minister Stephen Leece and the Ford government’s plan for reopening schools safely, also widely referred to as #SafeSeptember. Concerns around mandatory masks, sanitization procedures, funding for new and laid off teachers, and access to daycare and e-learning tools are some of the largest cited concerns.
According to a recent poll by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies, fifty-nine per cent of respondents with children said they would send their kids to school if there is some type of classroom instruction at least a few days a week. But, 18 per cent said they would keep children at home while the remaining 23 per cent said they didn’t know. Forty-one per cent of all respondents said they would be more worried about personally contracting COVID-19 if schools reopen while 48 per cent said it did not change their fears either way.
On the flip side, according to an updated Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board report released Monday August 10th of this year, 15-student classes would require about 900 additional teachers at the cost of approximately $76 million. The province has thus far pledged $30 million for the hiring of additional teachers across all of Ontario.
On Wednesday August 26th, the federal government stated that they are sending “up to” an additional $2 billion into provinces and territories for them to cover the extra costs of ensuring that students will be safe when the fall school year begins, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday.
The money is being sent through a new “Safe Return to Class Fund” in two instalments: a first portion this fall, and the second in “early 2021.” It will be distributed based on the number of students between ages of 4 and 18 in each region, with the decision to split the funding to “ensure that provinces and territories have support for the whole school year,” according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Beyond the amplified health concerns that this pandemic has brought forward, many other pre-existing systemic issues in the education system continue to be highlighted at drastic rates, racial inequity being one of them.
According to a 2019 article titled Avoiding Racial Equity Detours by Dr. Paul Gorski, “in schools committed to racial equity, educators who resist anti-racist measures should feel uneasy, isolated on the outskirts of their schools’ institutional cultures.” He goes on to say, “research shows the inverse tends to be true in many schools, even when leaders claim equity commitments. Often, the educators most adamant about racial equity are cast to the margins of institutional culture. They are the ones feeling isolated, wondering whether they belong” (Kohli, 2018; Picower, 2011).
DR. BEYHAN FARHADI
Gorski, P. (2019). Avoiding Racial Equity Deto. Educational Leadership.
Lubna asks Dr. Farhadi about her CBC feature titled Mandatory online courses for high school students 'a terrible idea,' expert says and what her suggestion is for returning to school and what exactly blended learning looks like in the context of COVID-19.
Read Joy's Toronto Star Feature titled As an Afro-Indigenous woman being Canadian means living in a nation built on my ancestors’ stolen lands by my ancestors’ slave labour to provide context for Lubna's question on how Indigenous studies only became mandatory recently and what her take is on the current curriculum as it pertains to Canada’s Afro-Indigenous history.
Lubna mentions the quote "White privilege is your history being part of the core curriculum and mine being taught as an elective" that was circulating on Twitter.
Read the Toronto Star article about Julius titled "Who can use the N-word? Who stands for O Canada? A young teacher’s woes over equity work".
There are resources provided by Austin for Social Justice, Equity and FSL Programs.
Publications/Resources Austin was featured in:
Centrer l'équité et la justice sociale dans le FLS : une réflexion d'un candidat racialisé à l’enseignement (Centering equity and social justice in FSL: A reflection from a racialized teacher candidate) – Publication written by Austin Jafri for the Ontario Modern Language Teachers’ Association
Ontario Ministry of Education Documents: