Racism dilutes education success in schools

Illustration of racism

Many recent studies have shown that racism in schools is existent and in some areas, it’s very rampant. Psychologists argue that students facing racial barriers suffer from a race-based “social stress”. This type of stress triggers a hormonal response that affects the basic cognitive processes in the body. These responses affect sleep, mood, attention, memory, and ability to think. It impacts negatively on their mental health and eventually affects their grades causing academic achievement gaps.

Effects of racism

Racism can be individual or systemic. The individual is when a person fails to recognize the race of another with equal dignity. Systemic is where policies or practices treat some races unjustly. Racial discrimination in schools hurts teachers, students, and also, the parents. It destabilizes the learning as well as the working environment. Discrimination brings tension that distorts the racial and cultural understanding among students. Eventually, it narrows the educational experiences of everyone – affected and not-affected teachers and students.

Racism in schools is known to affect:
Education outcomes
• Student behavior
• Cultural identity
• School-community relations
• School climate and
• Individual happiness and confidence.

Racial discrimination in education can happen at any level and age. It can be initiated or fuelled by teachers, students or unframed school policy.

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Globally most learning institutions are culturally diverse, thus racial bullying is a common thing. Some cases students tell others that they don’t belong to that school. Others manifest by calling them names or teasing them. Some even get spat on, verbally abused or are excluded. This kind of harassment has an impact on students’ mental health and can also affect their mobility. In many institutional set-ups, racial hierarchies are created, maintained and supported by institutions policies and power. Students take advantage of weak policies to bully around racism.

Teacher-student or vice-versa

Racial stereotypes harm students. In schools where students color and culture is diverse, teachers can bring racist stereotypes and attitudes. This can cause an impact on the ability of the affected students to get quality education. The actions and attitudes of racist teachers towards students can be overly critical, insensitive and offensive. The common discrimination by such teachers is in-class discipline. This involves a teacher punishing a student more harshly because of the students’ race or color status. In other cases, teachers can give unfair grading. Students can as well harass a teacher just because he belongs to the minority race in that school. This can be in form of booing in class or other unacceptable behaviors. This happens where systemic racism is rampant.

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Teacher – teacher

Teachers can also experience racism from other teachers or members of staff. This can be in form of harassment from those who feel their race is superior. There can also be abuse or biased promotion. At the systemic level, if there are policies that support these behaviors then they will continue unchallenged. As a result, these behaviors will contribute to systemic racism that will inadvertently encourage a teaching environment that creates and sustain racist attitudes.

How can we stop or prevent racism in schools?

• Apply mechanisms that will encourage students to report offenses. School administration should take the necessary action against reported cases.
• Form a school club that supports inclusion and diversity, this way student will understand multicultural history.
• Teach about the impacts of racism and if possible include it in the monthly guiding and counseling lessons
• Create a school policy that will address inclusiveness and zero-tolerance to racism.
• In extreme cases, homeschooling can be an option for parents, especially in early childhood.

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