Two brainy black twins from London have become the youngest pupils admitted to a secondary school at just 9 years old.

Paula and Peter Imafidon, from Waltham Forest, London, passed an A-Level maths exam at just 7 years old, the youngsters were encouraged by their three older brothers and sisters whom were also child prodigies.

Father, Chris Imafidon placed the success down to the Excellence in Education for inner city children from disadvantaged backgrounds programme, he also spoke of how nurture rather than nature can produce high achievement in any child.

The twins’ parents, Chris and Ann came to Britain from Nigeria more thn 30 years ago and have a family history of academic success. Eldest sister Ann-Marie became the youngest ever girl to pass A-level computing at the age of 11, and Samantha passed a double maths GCSE at only 6 years of age.

Are there any excuses for black children failing in schools?

With three out of four black boys failing to meet the average GCSE pass rates in Britain, the successes of the Imafidon family provokes serious questions about other black families in Britain. Putting aside racism in schools where black pupils are more likely to be permanently excluded and make up 80% of all the excluded pupils in London alone (Hélène Mulholland: Guardian: 2009). The Imafidon family have succeeded in education along with other black pupils who do meet the mark and this indicates that a productive environment and encouraging parents, siblings or relatives can be enough to nurture a mentality of success amongst black pupils.

In a Guardian article (January 2002) by Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, she mentions how African and Caribbean children enter the education system doing as well as whites and Asians in tests until they reach the age of 11 when the descent begins.

While some people blame gang culture and rap music for the decline of educational achievements amongst black pupils, specifically black boys, others take a different view also including institutional racism in the education system.

For years MP Diane Abbott and black parents as well as black groups and organisations have called for more black teaching staff in schools to provide black children with positive role models. Abbott has argued that white female teachers are not use to dealing with young black boys who are usually physically bigger than white boys for their age, which can intimidate them; while others have argued that teachers perceive black boys in a negative light based on media stereotypes.

Examples of these concerns were mentioned in an article by Matthew Cookson, in an article for Socialist Worker online, in 2005. In this article it is suggested by campaigners who marched outside Downing Street in 2005 in protest at the education system failing black children; that institutional racism has played a great part in why black children are failing. An example of this is reflected in the exclusion rates where black boys are three times more likely to be excluded than whites.

Wade Jacks, from Clapham in south London, said, “It is in secondary schools that the problems start. Teachers often see black boys as the horrid figure of a ‘black man’ that the media portrays.” (Cookson 2005)

Valerie, from Islington in north London, said, “A lot of black children are being excluded. This isn’t because they are ruder than white children, but because the system — and some teachers — are not working for our children.” (Cookson 2005)

The black boys who make it

While there is an argument that institutional racism has played a role in the failure of many black children in the education system there are still examples of black children like Paula and Peter Imafidone and their siblings who have overcome the hurdles. Adding to this black parents must take a more active role in the lives of their children when it comes to education and issues such as gang involvement.

The point is in 2002 13% of black boys did achieve 5 GCSEs, grades A to E (Diane Abbott: Guardian: 2002). Thirteen percent may not be alot and is a tragic number in relation to the failure of 87%, however it does show that some black boys are making it and perhaps these are the role models that we should champion and set as an example to the rest.

These boys who made the grade did not join gangs or succumb to the racial prejudices of the system; adding to this black female pupils and African children do not have the same problems as black boys which suggests that institutional racism is one among many factors which black families need to tackle as a way forward for the next generation.

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