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Afrik Impact recap: Educational Forum

“Standing with Our Children and Parents for Better Education” was the theme of an educational forum, featuring a panel of education experts discussing the pressing issues facing students and parents in this pandemic era. It took place at the Hyatt Regency Aurora Denver on the evening of Monday, August 9.

“No single organization can be successful if it does not make education a priority,” ALG Founder and Executive Director Papa Dia said, opening the event. Addressing the crowd, he continued: “So I invite you to speak up, to participate, because anything we leave on the table is something we might regret later.”

Before the panel began, however, the audience was treated to a keynote speech by Professor Foulo Basse, founder of Foulo Basse Conseil in Paris. He addressed the crowd by Zoom from France.

Professor Basse said he finds it helpful to think of education as a relay race, where parents, educators, and the community work together to ensure that students succeed. He also said in countries with high-functioning education systems, “the well-being of the children is preoccupation number one.“

Tatenda Muchiriri, who will open a micro-Montessori school in Aurora in 2022, moderated the event. Before the panel took the stage, Tatenda asked the audience, grouped around tables based on educational topics of interest, to spend 20 minutes discussing topics ranging from school choice to curriculum to career advancement to learning loss during Covid-19 to mental health.

A representative from each table then summarized the main points that emerged from the discussions, while panelists listened. They heard, for example, that many students feel that what they learn in school has no real-world applicability; that teachers feel unprepared when African immigrant students arrive in their classrooms; and that many immigrant students feel their school counselors and teachers fail to understand their mental health struggles.

Panelists included Andre Wright, Chief Academic Officer, Aurora Public Schools; Alex Marrero, Superintendent, Denver Public Schools; Omar Montgomery, President of NAACP, Aurora Branch; Dr. Carrie Olson, President of the Denver school board; and Juliet Anosike, a parent.

The dialogue was rich and is worth watching in full. The embedded video can be found at the bottom of this article. Here, as an appetizer, is one key quote from each panelist.

Andre Wright: “I want you to challenge Aurora Public Schools by asking: are you reinventing opportunities for children (with federal Covid-19 relief funds)or are you reinvesting in what we used to do anyway? If we’re spending all our time reinvesting in the past, we are not reinventing the future for our children. And that’s where we need to be.”

Omar Montgomery: To parents, I say walk into that school board meeting 10 parents strong and you can change the world. That is your power.”

Juliet Anosike: After saying her daughter was bullied at Aurora and Denver schools, she said she had to convince her to go back to in-person school this year. “That’s not a choice for our kids. We as parents have a role to play. To talk to them and make them understand when they interact with our students, interact with other people, they are making a way for themselves; a way forward, not backward. Teachers as well have a role to play. When you see kids being bullied, don’t just keep quiet.”

Carrie Olson: “Students, what can you expect this year? A renewed focus on your learning. Adults who are interested in knowing what you can do and where you are in your learning. You can expect to feel safe, feel fed, feel loved, feel cared for, and known and seen for who you are.And if you’re not getting that, not only should you have 10 parents showing up for a board meeting, I would say there should be 10 students showing up for a board meeting. We do not hear from enough students in our school board. Students need to show up for board meetings.”

Alex Marrero: “I am going to make sure that there are no obstacles for students, in particular those who have shown some regression. If there is an obstacle in terms of transportation for after-school programs…it will not remain an obstacle in Denver Public Schools.”

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