Probe into Fife’s slave trade links leads to lessons on anti-racism for school pupils

Fife schoolchildren are set to learn more about "the importance of tolerance and anti-racism" under recommendations put forward by a taskforce convened to research the Kingdom's historical links to the slave trade.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 5:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 5:37 pm
Picture ; John Devlin
Picture ; John Devlin

The Enslavement Education Group was assembled at the request of Labour councillor Garry Haldane, who said the council had a responsibility to education future generatons on the "bias ingrained in society".

It has unveiled a proposed action plan detailing how youngsters would be made aware of both local and national involvement in the historical slave trade, including directly discussing the history of the trade in the classroom.

Alongside looking backwards, the group proposes that education materials look at the present too in light of the modern Black Lives Matter movement, and addressing the ongoing challenges presented by modern slavery.

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Picture ; John Devlin

It wants to see materials incorporated into the curriculum from as early as the upcoming school year in August.

However, the plan also goes beyond schools, and proposes a public awareness campaign informing locals of Fife s involvement in slavery in the past, to be launched during Black Lives Matter week this October.

Paul Vaughan, the council's head of communities, said in a report on the taskforce: "The council recognises that the issue of slavery and those who benefited and suffered at its hands requires careful review to ensure greater understanding of its local consequences.

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"The [education] group concluded that the slave trade and its impacts are far-reaching and complex and have affected every part of society.

"The topic cannot be considered in isolation, but must be viewed in the context of ongoing issues of racism, inequality and under-representation."

The taskforce is made up of ten councillors, six council officers from across the local authority's departments and Nina Munday, the manager of the Fife Centre for Equalities.

Since it was formed last October it has met five times and has spoken with academics and experts to better understand Fife and Scotland's less flattering histories.

It has also carried out independent research into any possible links between Fife's monuments, buildings and street names and the buying and selling of servants.

To date, no links have been established between the trade and Fife's monuments and statues, while an analysis of local street names was "inconclusive". Research by University College London suggests 19 addresses in the Kingdom may be linked to slavers.

However, the council has committed to continuing research into other potentially problematic monickers.

Cllr Mino Manekshaw initially opposed the formation of the taskforce last September whilst the Covid-19 pandemic raged on. However, he has praised the work achieved to date.

"As someone who feels strongly about the historical aspects I was very comfortable with the outcome," he said.

"I believe there is a way to go but we also need to recognise, even in my relatively short lifespan, we have seen tremendous strides.

"Overall, I thought it was a very worthwhile exercise and if it helps back down some of the threats that different parts of our communities see in each other the education will have been well-served."

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