'Last week I withdrew my son from his international school. He had been complaining that all his teachers were Caucasian, and he could not understand why he would be in an international school in Africa and all his teachers would be Caucasian and the few African teachers are assistants serving the majority Caucasian educators.
My son had set up an Instagram account he activated for one hour to sensitive the school to this issue. In his words, ‘the blacks who stand for this are selling out’. The challenge here is that the few affluent Africans feel proud to have their kids in these schools and are comfortable to pay the 36,000 USD fees because such schools are predominantly staffed by Whites.
My son was calling for change, but instead the Caucasian and non-African teachers were livid. He was described as angry and needing counselling to address his anger issues. I informed the school that when they can assure me that there were more African teachers, my son will be back. Well I said this amongst other stuff I cannot print here. My son is home taking online schooling. I will protect my son from being educated within a racist system at all cost, having an international school in Africa staffed mainly by Caucasian in this day and age is an insult upon injury given Africa’s colonial history. It sends a terrible message to the African, and other non-Caucasian children in these systems.
A 2017 article in the International Educator highlights this negative trend in the continent. In the article More “American” Than America: Race in International School Leadership” writer Henry S. Adams notes that browsing through the leadership profile webpage of any overseas American school reveals an `ethnicity composite that is disproportionately Caucasian.’ This contrast he writes is especially accentuated when the school is located in an economically developing host country like what we find across Africa where the majority of the population is not Caucasian. There is no ‘research substantiating the notion that Caucasians are predisposed to make better school administrators. Yet, there seems to be a widespread perception that a predominately white leadership is somehow needed to promote and preserve a school image that is more “American” than America actually is in reality’, says Adams.
The lack of ethnic diversity in leadership raises the fundamental question of what it means for a school to be international or American. Adam believes, and I agree, that it goes beyond implementing an IB curriculum or delivering English-medium instruction. ‘Internationalism has more to do with an awareness of and respect for diversity that is deeply embedded within the culture of the school. Many schools claim to embrace core values such as global responsibility, fairness, and respect in the language of their mission statements and strategic plans.' But, ‘in addition to inspiring rhetoric, we have a moral obligation and professional responsibility to teach by example, and this includes adopting hiring practices that are aligned with the values we try to instill in our students.’
Adams nailed it for me when he concludes that it would be a misnomer for international schools to call themselves ““21st-century schools”—as many claim to be—so long as 'we are bound by antiquated belief systems and discriminatory practices from the European colonial era. Considering how much progress we have made in the 20th century in terms of empowering women with more equal rights and treatment, it is deplorable that educators of color at international and overseas American schools continue to face glass ceilings that women have already transcended in the new millennium.'
My son has attended seven international schools across four African countries in the last 11 years. All have the same pattern and issue regarding the senior educators and leadership being mainly Caucasian.
It would be a shame if Africa becomes an enclave for the rehabilitation of racism and racial segregation through international organizations and presence.
Given its colonial history, and the racial dynamics inherent in it, the critical issue must be to reflect a diverse senior leadership of educators in international schools in Africa to include nationals of the countries where these schools are. This sends a positive and empowering message to not only the African students in these schools, but the non-African students as well.