Meet Lavinya Stennett: 23 years old and tackling Britain’s racial education

At only 23-years-old, Lavinya Stennett is the CEO of The Black Curriculum, a new initiative that’s fighting to improve teaching of Black British history and culture.

If you grew up in the UK like I did, then you might feel that your formal education on Black British history was somewhat lacking.

Aside from a surface level rendition of the slave trade’s abolition, very little in-depth discussion of Black rights or identity was discussed in my classes, leaving me embarrassingly ignorant as to Britain’s full cultural history. 23-year-old Lavinya Stennett set up The Black Curriculum in 2019 for this very reason, and is determined to bring young students a more rounded, thorough course on Black identity to help empower them in later life.

The Black Curriculum is a social enterprise dedicated to giving 8-16 year olds a new Black history programme that’s more accessible and comprehensive than traditional courses. The company is in its infancy, but over 1,000 students have already taken part in test workshops that look at Black arts in Britain and explore other cultures around the world, topics that are usually left out of the national syllabus.

Given this year’s Black Lives Matter protests that have pushed for reform and a re-evaluation of our racial biases, Lavinya’s company is a shining example of Gen Z taking initiative and creating the changes that are needed at a systematic level to radicalise how we understand identity and diversity.

How does The Black Curriculum operate?

Lavinya has already worked with several schools around the UK and is gearing up for more student sessions throughout 2020 and 2021.

Right now there are four modules available including art history, migration, politics and the legal system, and the environment. Schools can license a topic from The Black Curriculum externally, too, or opt for the full syllabus. Starting this year, it’s also publishing an annual report examining the presence of Black British history in the national curriculum, the first of which you can view here.

In its own words, The Black Curriculum states that the UK education system has ‘failed many young people’ and that ‘without the resources we are still going to face the same historical inaccuracies, bias, and a lack of enthusiasm’. These new modules designed by Lavinya’s team are helping to shake up educational tools for children and, by extension, perceptions of Britain’s multicultural society.

Who is Lavinya Stennett?

Lavinya Stennett is a graduate from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She lead a campaign to change her university’s policy on bursaries after discovering that over 90 working class and ethnic minority students did not receive money they were eligible for. She also won the SOAS Student Activist of the Year Award in 2019, and co-founded the Art and the African Mind society. The Black Curriculum is her latest project that’s tackling racial education on a national scale.

Speaking to Global Citizen, Lavinya said she was inspired after doing a semester in New Zealand as part of her studies. She felt the curriculum there recognised and examined colonialism in great detail, and was compelled to introduce something similar to the UK. ‘It made me feel inspired to think about what we could do here,’ she said.

Lavinya launched the project with two other post-graduates, Bethany Thompson and Lisa Kennedy, and swiftly grew the team out to 30 people. The Black Curriculum is currently developing new courses and is focusing on online sessions due to the pandemic, and Lavinya hopes that the recent Black Lives Matter protests will help push for long-term, sustainable change around Black history education in the future.

If you’re interested in helping out the cause for yourself, you can visit The Black Curriculum donation page here or visit the site’s ‘Help Us Take Action’ page that provides email templates to send to MPs and other material to get you clued up.

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