By Dana C. Ayres
As my 4th grade teacher said to us, “success comes in cans, not cant’s.” This is the essential idea that Moya Ojarigi wants her students to carry through life…that inner idea that says “I can do it.” Moya is the creator of her own school for African-centered learning called Moya’s Early Literacy Made Fun.
Moya’s idea for the school is that the learning is primarily African-centered in order to provide an effectively-positive and highly-motivational learning environment for Black boys and girls. The language that the school is focused around is positive affirmation, science and math, literacy, leadership and personal responsibility. All of these high characteristics are equated to Blackness, African, male, female…
Through Ojarigi’s efforts, she allays skeptical parents’ fears by building strong Black children for the future. She instills within them the positive core values they need before they enter grade school. This would explain the exclusivity of the school. American public schools may try to develop curriculums designed to foster inclusion and self-esteem, but the level of self-esteem that Black children require comes from a strong, positive familial foundation. In this respect, her school serves as a bridge for children who are transitioning from home into the public school system.
Her lesson plans are centered on how children typically learn (sight, sound, song) and not how generic classrooms expect them to learn (rote, recitation). She encourages movement, which is another way children naturally learn, as well as through active demonstration of learned skills. They learn best by being who they are. Moya’s kids learn freely. She guides them according to their natural inclinations and doesn’t work to stifle creativity and free expression. She has provided her own published literature for the students to read. She presents famous Black leaders and role models as people that Black children can aspire to be like or be better than, not simply to know about and be able to recite factual historical information.
Once the child sees the classroom as a less threatening and less intimidating place, they may have more positive classroom experiences in the future and more importantly, see the teacher as a guide and a helper, not an adversary to be challenged. They are strongly affirmed and girded within by Moya’s teachings and they are affectively and emotionally fulfilled enough to not subconsciously pine for attention, which would disrupt a classroom. Often, these negative behaviors get the child recommended for special education, which within itself is a defeating and deprecating experience for children who are misdiagnosed as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).
According to AtlantaBlackStar.com, Black children benefit from African-centered schooling because it provides them with a much needed strong self-identity. “A 2012 study published in the journal Child Development found “racial pride to be the most powerful factor in protecting children from the sting of discriminatory behavior. It directly and positively related to three out of four academic outcomes—grade-point averages, educational aspirations, and cognitive engagement—and was also related to resilience in the face of discrimination.”
Here’s a video of Ojarigi explaining more about her approach to teaching to black children. Should the Black community seriously invest real money into ventures such as Moya’s?