Letter: Schools cannot right race legacy

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The Independent Online
Sir: What was Suzanne Moore trying to say ("The post-racist bubble bursts", 6 September)? She seems to be a victim of the myth that schools and teachers can successfully counter inadequate social and family backgrounds.

From 1960-1962 I taught Yoruba boys in a school in the western region of Nigeria; later, in England, I taught Afro-Caribbean boys and girls. Their forefathers were probably taken as slaves from the same tribe, the Yoruba, to the West Indies.

The difference in self-esteem and span of attention was striking. The Yoruba boys were proud of their language, culture and history. That pride and a firm family structure made them excellent students.

Their distant cousins, however, had been subjected to a slave plantation ethos, had forgotten their original language and culture, had lost their family structure and had a veneer of Englishness which hindered rather than helped their learning.

With the best intentions and the best resources, I and my colleagues could not make amends for their history. Isn't that the point you are making in your profile of the Asian and Afro-Caribbean students ("Pupils can expect to do better and better in exams, unless they are black. Why?", 6 September).

However hard they try, however skilled and compassionate they are, teachers can only remedy a few of the deficiencies of the home and history of their charges.