For years, black parents have struggled to find dolls that reflect the look of their children.
Nana Dolls does not only fill this gap of a more familiar doll but also teaches the child about their history in a fun and educational way.
Their mission is to teach black children to love themselves and be proud of who they are. What better way to instill this self-love than through their favourite toys.
The launch of Nana dolls proved how relevant these dolls are, completely selling out within four days. Now the dolls are back in stock and they are doing better than ever.
“The support has been amazing. We created these dolls to inspire children of all cultures to love and take pride in their heritage in a world that’s not always so easy to do so”, says Fuse ODG (3-time MOBO Award Winning Afrobeats Superstar who is also the co-founder of Nana Dolls).
The dolls were inspired by historical African figures who fought for black freedom ,Yaa Asantewaa from Ghana, Miriam Makeba from South Africa, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti from Nigeria and Mbuya Nehanda from Zimbabwe. Nana means Queen or King in the Ghanaian dialect ‘twi’.
“We are just as excited about these dolls as our customers. We plan on extending the range and adding more Queens and beautiful African print outfits” says creative director and co-founder, Karen Jonga.
With support from other influential celebrities such as Wyclef Jean, Ed Sheeran, Tinie Tempah, Sean Paul & Sarkodie, Nana Dolls are here to teach the younger generation the important history of these powerful and courageous African Queens.
Join Nana Dolls on this exciting journey as we all learn about their strong characters and their ultimate bravery.
African American parents are increasingly taking their kids’ education into their own hands—and in many cases, it’s to protect them from institutional racism and stereotyping.
Marvell Robinson was in kindergarten when a classmate reportedly poured an anthill on him at the playground. After that, the gibes reportedly became sharper: “Why are you that color?” one boy taunted at the swing set, leaving Marvell scared and speechless. The slow build of racial bullying would push his mother, Vanessa Robinson, to pull him from his public school and homeschool him instead.
Marvell is one of an estimated 220,000 African American children currently being homeschooled, according to the National Home Education Research Institute. Black families have become one of the fastest-growing demographics in homeschooling, with black students making up an estimated 10 percent of the homeschooling population. (For comparison’s sake, they make up 16 percent of all public-school students nationwide, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.)
And while white homeschooling families traditionally cite religious or moral disagreements with public schools in their decision to pull them out of traditional classroom settings, studies indicate black families are more likely to cite the culture of low expectations for African American students or dissatisfaction with how their children—especially boys—are treated in schools.
Marvell, now 7 and in the second grade, was the only black student in both his kindergarten and first-grade classes, and one of only a few black students in his San Diego elementary school, according to his mother. And Marvell’s Asperger syndrome—a high-functioning form of autism that makes social interaction difficult—only added to the curiosity and cruelty with which his fellow classmates approached him, Robinson added. She was concerned the school wasn’t doing enough about it. “I just thought maybe I could do a better job myself,” she said.
“The schools want little black boys to behave like little white girls, and that’s just never going to happen. They are different.”
“They said, ‘kids will be kids,’ and the only solution was for Marvell to be monitored—like he had done something wrong,” Robinson said. “In the end, I don’t think that anyone should have to monitor my kid” because of other kids’ behavior.
Robinson allowed Marvell to finish first grade there and began homeschooling him when he started second grade in September. Robinson adjusted her nursing schedule to include 12-hour shifts on the weekends so she could take on educating Marvell during the week. Her husband, a sous chef at a restaurant in downtown San Diego, continues to work full-time and participates in lessons when he can.
And while her primary motivation was giving Marvell individualized attention, Robinson was unable to separate her worries about racial bullying from the decision. “If he hadn’t been bullied I would have really looked into transferring schools, or going back to where I grew up in Kansas,” she said. “At least in Kansas it was more racially diverse. I assumed that’s how the schools would be in San Diego, but I was wrong.”
Robinson likely joins hundreds of other African American parents who’ve decided to homeschool their children because of dissatisfaction with the traditional campuses. Indeed, Joyce Burges at National Black Home Educators has watched her membership grow “exponentially” in the 15 years since the organization was founded, a trend also reflected in Marvell’s home state of California. While Burges’s national conferences in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, used to attract only around 50 people, they now attract upwards of 400, she said—a noteworthy number for the first organization for black homeschoolers in a sea of predominantly white organizations.
Research conducted by Marie-Josée Cérol—known professionally as Ama Mazama—also offers insight into the growing trend. A faculty member in the African American Studies department at Temple University in Philadelphia, Mazama began homeschooling her three children 12 years ago and realized quickly that there was little research on black homeschoolers.
“Whenever there are mentions of African American homeschoolers, it’s assumed that we homeschool for the same reasons as European-American homeschoolers, but this isn’t really the case,” she said. “Because of the unique circumstances of black people in this country, there is really a new story to be told.”
In a 2012 report published in the Journal of Black Studies, Mazama surveyed black homeschooling families from around the country and found that most chose to educate their children at home at least in part to avoid school-related racism. Mazama calls this rationale “racial protectionism” and said it is a response to the inability of schools to meet the needs of black students. “We have all heard that the American education system is not the best and is falling behind in terms of international standards,” she said. “But this is compounded for black children, who are treated as though they are not as intelligent and cannot perform as well, and therefore the standards for them should be lower.”
Mazama said schools also rob black children of the opportunity to learn about their own culture because of a “Euro-centric” world-history curriculum. “Typically, the curriculum begins African American history with slavery and ends it with the Civil Rights Movement,” she said. “You have to listen to yourself simply being talked about as a descendent of slaves, which is not empowering. There is more to African history than that.” Mazama’s studies show that black parents who choose to homeschool often teach a comprehensive view of African history by incorporating more detailed descriptions of ancient African civilizations and accounts of successful African people throughout history. This allows children to “build their sense of racial pride and self esteem,” she said.
Meanwhile, Cheryl Fields-Smith, an associate professor in the department of Educational Theory and Practice at the University of Georgia, has in her own studies found similar motivations among black homeschoolers. “The schools want little black boys to behave like little white girls, and that’s just never going to happen. They are different,” she said. “I think black families who are in a position to homeschool can use homeschooling to avoid the issues of their children being labeled ‘trouble makers’ and the suggestion that their children need special-education services because they learn and behave differently.”
What it means to be “in a position to homeschool” has long been a question in the homeschooling community. According to Mazama, regardless of race, homeschooling families tend to be wealthier and better educated because they must have the economic ability to have one parent stay home full time. Home education, she added, is “not a middle-class phenomenon.”
However, both Mazama and Fields-Smith say this is beginning to change; barriers that in the past might have left homeschooling out of the question for many working-class families are being lifted. Greater access to public-education resources is making homeschooling more appealing, too. Mazama pointed to the availability of subsidies ensuring homeschooled children have access to standard public-school nutritional offerings, for example, and public programs allowing homeschooled students to enroll in extracurricular activities and after-school sports as reasons why families are increasingly seeing homeschooling as a valid alternative to traditional education. In fact, Fields-Smith is in the process of writing a book on black, single homeschooling mothers because she sees “more and more families of less means” making the decision to sacrifice traditional career paths so that they can pull their children from school.
Rhonda McKnight would be an archetypical candidate for Fields-Smith’s book. As a single mother, she works about 45 hours per week as a contractor for the state of Georgia—often at odd hours and during the weekend—so she can homeschool her 8-year-old son, Micah. “It’s not easy,” McKnight said. “It’s extremely difficult to balance everything.” While a common criticism of homeschooling is a potential lack of socialization for children, Mazama said the growing number of homeschooling groups solves this problem. McKnight for her part joined a homeschooling collective that, in addition to providing Micah time with other children, also helps her manage her workload. The group gathers on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays to engage in extracurricular and hands-on learning activities that can’t easily be done in the home, giving McKnight some time to herself—and, of course, some time to work.
Micah, who like Marvell is autistic, didn’t learn well in a classroom with 25 students. McKnight also felt as though his teacher was misinterpreting the symptoms of his disability as behavioral problems and accusing him of “behavior that was not typical to him.” “I don’t know how racially motivated it was at the time,” McKnight said. “But even black teachers are taught certain things they are not even aware of. Our culture tends towards labeling our boys.”
The poor education, according to McKnight, left Micah significantly behind in several subjects, which means she’s now trying to pack as much into his schedule as possible to get him back on track. “He doesn’t really get a day off—not right now, because he’s just behind. I feel like he doesn’t really have time to relax,” McKnight said, explaining she wasn’t aware just how behind he was until she started to homeschool him. Most devastating, she said, was when she realized her son was reading well below his expected third-grade level: “I felt like I had totally failed him, and the school had totally failed him, and the only thing I could do was work with him one-on-one to get him caught up.”
To get Micah up to par in his academics, McKnight has employed a customized mix of purchased homeschool lesson plans and learning materials she developed herself—all on top of what he learns at the collective. When Micah is home, McKnight said her days are “totally dedicated to him.” They work for at least an hour on each of the core subjects, studying within the grade level that best suits him in each area. On days he returns from the collective, McKnight reads with him for two or three hours with the goal of getting him to a third-grade level by the end of the year. Lessons even continue on Saturdays and Sundays. He’s at his father’s place every other weekend, where he continues his reading schedule, and on the weekends that he’s home McKnight takes him on educational field trips—Atlanta’s many museums are frequent destinations.
“I felt like I had totally failed him, and the school had totally failed him, and the only thing I could do was work with him one-on-one to get him caught up.”
It’s this ability to shape everyday activities and lessons to meet the personal needs of each child that Fields-Smith finds so promising about homeschooling—especially for black families. “There is no one way to homeschool,” she said, noting all of the families that she consulted for her study were “catering to their children and customizing their education for them” instead of using a single stock homeschooling curriculum.
Still, Mazama and Fields-Smith acknowledge that homeschooling is controversial, particularly in the black community. “For African Americans there is a sense of betrayal when you leave public schools in particular,” Mazama said. “Because the struggle to get into those schools was so harsh and so long, there is this sense of loyalty to the public schools. People say, ‘We fought to get into these schools, and now you are just going to leave?’”
For Paula Penn-Nabrit, an African American scholar and writer who homeschooled her children in the 1990s, this struggle hits very close to home. Her husband’s uncle, James Nabrit, argued Brown v. Board of Education in front of the Supreme Court alongside Thurgood Marshall; he later served as the president of Howard University. When Penn-Nabrit decided to pull her three sons from public school, it angered many of her black friends. “A lot of people felt that because my family was intimately involved in the effort to integrate schools, that for me to pull my children out of schools was a betrayal of all that work,” she said. “But it really wasn’t. The case had nothing to do with what I, as a parent, decide I want for my child. That decision meant the state can’t decide to give me less than, but I can decide I want more than.”
In 2003, Penn-Nabrit published a book, Morning by Morning: How We Home-Schooled Our African-American Sons to the Ivy League, in an effort to help others repeat her successes with homeschooling. Her older twin sons, Damon and Charles, both attended Princeton, and her youngest son, Evan, went to Amherst College and then to the University of Pennsylvania.* The book, according to Penn-Nabrit, received “a lot of open hostility”—with several people accusing her of racism—because it detailed accounts of the discrimination her sons allegedly faced in public school and emphasized an Afrocentric approach to education.
“I just want my son to be a free thinker and to question everything … I wish that when I was growing up, I could have done that.”
Upon deciding to homeschool their sons, Penn-Nabrit and her husband, both of whom have degrees in the humanities, elected to teach them the subject areas they knew well. For the remaining science and math courses, however, they hired black, mostly male, graduate students from the Ohio State University to take over—in large part so that the boys had exposure to successful people who looked like them. After all, according to the Department of Education, less than 2 percent of current classroom teachers nationwide are African American males; until their homeschooling, Penn-Nabrit’s children had never had a black man as a teacher.
“Most black people go to school and never have a teacher that looks like them, and this is particularly true for black boys,” she said. Similar concerns, she noted, led to the creation of single-sex schools—a particularly apt comparison for Penn-Nabrit, who attended Wellesley. “If women benefit from having a period of isolation from the larger group, that could be applicable to black boys as well.”
Mazama, meanwhile, said that rooting children in their heritage in an educational setting allows them to do better emotionally and socially. “If anything, homeschooled black children would be much stronger because they would not have been devastated at an early age by racism,” she said. She explained that the absence of these early destructive experiences, combined with a heritage-focused curriculum, ultimately allows children to recognize and deal constructively with racism—”not by denying it, but by confronting it because they are comfortable with who they are.”
“That’s the way I teach my own children,” she continued. “I have seen this work.”
Back in San Diego, Vanessa Robinson has also seen it work. Now that she’s been homeschooling Marvell for five months, she notices that he is better adjusted and has moved farther along academically than he did in public school.
“He’s a completely different person,” she said, reporting that his confidence is higher compared to where it was in public school, allowing him to make friends in his neighborhood and learn more quickly. Robinson said that, while she bought a set of lesson plans with a suggested timeline, Marvell now moves so quickly that she has to add lessons together from an array of instructional programs just to keep up. And when he finds something he loves, she lets him dive deep. “Right now, Marvell says he wants to work for NASA, so we’re really focusing on getting in depth into science and space,” she said. His new interest is a thrilling prospect for Robinson, a registered nurse with a background in science.
“I just want my son to be a free thinker and to question everything,” she said. “I wish that when I was growing up, I could have done that.”
Hi everyone, I’m doing a short series titled “Never Forget” that highlights interesting facts about important African Personalities. Today’s post is about Nelson Mandela. Below are 7 interesting facts about the man who led South Africa to freedom:
Mandela’s birth name was Rolihlahla Mandela. “Rolihlahla” which loosely translates as “troublemaker” in the Xhosa language, but strictly translated, the word means “pulling the branch of a tree.” He was given the first name ‘Nelson’ by a teacher in grade school.
Mandela was no stranger to trouble. He was expelled from the University of Fort Hare after joining a student protest. He later completed his degree through Unisa and later got a law degree from Wits University.
Mandela suffered the losses of two close family members while imprisoned. His mother died in 1968 and his eldest son, Thembi, died the following year. Mandela wasn’t permitted to pay his respects at their funerals.
Mandela reportedly received at least three offers to be set free from prison. However, he declined each time because he was offered his freedom on the condition that he reject his earlier activism in some way.
He was on the U.S. terror watch list: Mandela wasn’t removed from the U.S. terror watch list until 2008 — at age 89. He and other members of the African National Congress were placed on it because of their militant fight against apartheid.
He had a cameo in a Spike Lee film: He had a big part in Spike Lee’s 1992 biopic “Malcolm X.” At the very end of the movie, he plays a teacher reciting Malcolm X’s famous speech to a room full of Soweto school kids. But the pacifist Mandela wouldn’t say “by any means necessary.” So Lee cut back to footage of Malcolm X to close out the film.
He married a first lady. Before tying the knot with Mandela on his 80th birthday, Graca Machel was married to Mozambique President Samora Machel. Her marriage to Mandela after her husband’s death means she has been the first lady of two nations.
Thank you so much for reading. Any suggestions on who I should do next? Send me a message on twitter.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation continues to battle the scourge of insurgency, especially in its northeastern Borno State. Years back, the entire Muslim-dominated north was targeted by terrorists.
Government estimates indicate that there are at least 10 million young boys across Nigeria’s north who are sent out by parents and guardians to solicit for alms on the streets.
The boys are locally referred ‘almajiris’ – an Arabic term for boys who leave home in search of knowledge in Islam .
The country’s north suffers in the area of different social indicators like enrollment in school, child mortality and early marriages. Records show that attendance remains quite low in schools.
But a school in the region is trying to change the narrative. Here, young boys who would have otherwise fallen prey to Boko Haram recruits have found solace and the programme is seen as a viable means to ensuring that youngsters are not lured by terror groups.
The young boys in this school used to be sent by their families away from home to boarding schools across northern Nigeria, where they could learn the Koran under the care of an Islamic scholar or “Malam”, but with time the system became overwhelmed and neglected thus many became vulnerable to trafficking and other forms of abuse.
“We walk around the streets and beg for food to eat. My mallam (teacher) cautioned us against meeting or talking to strangers, he said it is not good because some of them may ‘steal’ us,” one boy told the AFP.
The school which is run with the support of the American University of Nigeria groups the boys according to age and time of enrolment, with the curriculum being expanded as the boys advance.
One of the aims of the programme is to encourage people to stop referring to the boys as ‘almajiris’, a word that tends to carry negative connotations.
“We have about 200 roughly in each programme. Some people have come forward to support it but the numbers don’t seem to be going down even though most of the internally displaced people have gone home,” one of the leaders of the group championing this cause said.
Sierra Leone on Thursday rejected a bid of over $7.8 million for one of the world’s largest diamonds at an auction.
The 706-carat gem is the second largest ever discovered in the West African country and was unearthed in March in the eastern Kono region by a Christian pastor who gave it to the government to handle the sale.
The chief auctioneer and head of the National Minerals Agency, Sahr Wonday told a packed room that the bid was below the government’s reserve amount.
“I regret to inform you however that none of the bids submitted here today matched the government of Sierra Leone’s reserve amount,” he said.
Five bids were handed to auctioneers in a sealed brown envelope, ranging from $2 million to $7.8 million.
The top bid, made by Ziad al-Ahmadi on behalf of Belgium diamond dealer Ray Diam BVBA, was rejected.
Chief auctioneer and head of the National Minerals Agency, Sahr Wonday told a packed room that the bid was below the government’s reserve amount.
Wonday said the government now hopes to get more for the stone at an international auction in either Antwerp, Belgium or Tel Aviv in Israel.
Rwandan schools are expected to start using smart classrooms by the end of this year as a result of a partnership agreement signed three years ago between the Government of Rwanda and Microsoft to digitise the country’s education sector.
The smart classrooms will give students access to computers and basic software as well as internet access to digitise teaching and learning.
Microsoft’s regional education industry manager for West, East, Central Africa and Indian Ocean Islands, Warren La Fleur told local newspaper The New Times in Kigali last week that the first batch of smart classrooms will be ready by the end of the current fiscal year.
“I would say that before the end of the current financial year you will have smart classrooms in Rwanda where this new way of teaching with digital identity will certainly be in place,” he said.
A Ministry of Education official, Nkubito Bakuramutsa said the project will reduce the cost of delivering learning materials to schools and improve learning outcomes.
“It’s a very strategic partnership. The idea is to ensure that Rwandan students become global citizens capable of working locally, on the continent, but also anywhere in the world,” he said, adding that 500 smart classrooms across the country could be fully connected by August 2017.
Students in all schools are expected to have access to the internet by 2020, as currently, only 531 schools in Rwanda out of the 3,500 are connected, Education Minister Dr Musafiri Papias Malimba said last year.
Rwanda is one of the fastest growing countries in Africa.
Dr Oluyinka Olutoye, a United States-based Nigerian Surgeon, a few months ago led a team of surgeons at the Texas Children’s Fetal Center to operate on a 23 weeks foetus. In the historic feat, the team took out the foetus, carried out the surgery, and then placed the foetus back into the womb. The mother of the child then carried the foetus till 36 weeks and gave birth to a bouncing baby boy.
Although this is not the first time a surgery has been done on a foetus taken out of the womb, it was the first time surgery has been done on a foetus with this particular tumor. Baby Garret Jorgensen had a rare tumor mass on two-thirds of his chest that compressed his heart and both lungs. The surgery which took over two hours to perform created a huge media buzz especially in Nigeria, even reaching the President’s attention.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President had this to say concerning the news: “Nigerians are great people, making greater positive impacts in all fields of human endeavour in the Diaspora. Dr Olutoye’s feat is one of such testimonies,”
Dr Olutoye is Co-Director of the Texas Children’s Fetal Center and fetal surgery team member, as well as a general paediatric surgeon in the USA.
Dr Olutoye received his medical degree from Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, in 1988 and his PhD in anatomy from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, in 1996.
He completed his residency in general surgery at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals, Virginia Commonwealth University, and his fellowship in paediatric surgery at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pa.
In addition, he is a member of the International Fetal Medicine and Surgery Society and is a Fellow of the Surgical Section of the American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Surgeons; he is also a Fellow of the West African College of Surgeons.