Background and Rationale
The primary role of the Student Support Worker (SSW) Program is to provide support for students of African descent and their families, in order to make their schooling a more positive experience, thereby helping the student achieve success and remain in school (TCRSB SSW Program outline).
Understanding the impact and dynamics of systemic racism is fundamental in appreciating the importance of initiatives such as the Student Support Worker Program. As with other “isms”, neither malice nor intent is necessary in order to participate in someone else’s, or even one’s own, oppression. Prevailing ideas and systemic practices can create a condition of non-inclusion and exclusion for groups of people in our society.
For African Nova Scotians, racism is often the most pervasive factor impacting upon the quality of education, the educational environment, and their ability to achieve success in the school system.
As per Section 140 (b) of the Education Act: School Boards shall include in learning materials information respecting the history, heritage, culture, traditions and the contribution to society of African people.
There is legislation within the Education Act that directs and supports School Boards in these types of programs. The creation of the African Canadian Services Division at the Department of Education; the Council on African Canadian Education, to the Minister of Education; the Regional Educators Program, with the Black Educators Association; the Provincial Incentive Program for Black students; the establishment of a position for an African Nova Scotian School Board member; and the Student Support Worker Program are all part of a comprehensive strategy to utilize education as a key element for African Nova Scotian Learners to acquire opportunities for a better life.
In December of 1994, the Black Learners Advisory Committee (BLAC) released a report entitled BLAC Report on Education: Redressing Inequity-Empowering Black Learners.
The following have been identified within the BLAC Report on
· The lack of Black role models in our school environment;
· Alienation of Black students in the total school environment;
· A lack of visibility of Blacks consistently in the curriculum;
· Deliberate avoidance of Black contribution to society;
· A lack of clear understanding by the teachers of Black culture, behavior and activities;
· A low expectation of Black students;
· Negative relationship between school staff and the Black community;
· Teacher insensitivity towards Black students;
· Ineffective discipline procedures;
· Inability of administration to deal with social confrontations;
· A high drop-out of Black students;
· A lower graduation rate of Black students;
· Inability to motivate Black students;
· Guiding Black students to select non-university programs;
· A higher number of Black students in resource programs.
The BLAC Report, containing 46 recommendations, was submitted to the Nova Scotia Government. In June of 1995, the 46 recommendations contained in the report were accepted by the government.
Recommendation 5B was to provide a support person in the school to whom Black learners can go to for assistance. Thus the Student Support Worker Program, already established in Halifax, was expanded across the province.
Many positive changes have occurred in our educational system in recent years. Much progress has been made towards inclusive education for all students. The changes, which are intended to improve the quality of education for all students, frequently require additional resources to meet the needs of students who are marginalized as a result of such things as race, culture, language and/or ability.
The Student Support Worker Program is designed to:
· Provide positive role models;
· Reduce the feelings of isolation and disconnectedness experienced by the African Nova Scotian learners, their families and communities;
· Enhance the academic, cultural and social experiences of African Nova Scotian Learners;
· Help schools increase the retention of African Nova Scotian Learners in the education system;
· Increase liaison between the African Nova Scotian communities and schools
Theme 2: Staffing
The Department of Education recognizes that adequate resources are necessary to make Reality Check’s recommendations attainable. Staff and resources are essential components of any plan. The Department of Education is committed to working with school boards and other education partners to address the staffing issues identified in this report. We will develop detailed action plans that respond to both the human resources planning issues identified and ongoing barriers to recruitment and staffing (e.g., the number of African Nova Scotian teacher candidates).
Specific Responses to Recommendations within the Staffing Theme
The Department of Education accepts this recommendation.
The Department of Education will provide school boards with provincial guidelines for the Student Support Worker program in the 2010-11 school year to ensure consistency of services across the province.
The Department of Education will also work with school boards to provide professional development for school administrators on best practices around effective use of Student Support Worker's within schools.