Group finds race bar starts in school

March 17, 2000

The UK produces virtually no home-grown black doctors or scientists, say education campaigners, writes Steve Farrar.

Young black people have been effectively barred from pursuing a career in science through stereotyping, discrimination and isolation in school, at home and in society, according to Elizabeth Rasekoala, director of the African/Caribbean Network for Science and Technology.

While there were growing numbers of Asian or Chinese origin, A/CNST had been unable to find a single doctor, engineer or scientist of Afro-Caribbean origin who had been born in the UK and whose education had been wholly British.

"The third world is producing black scientists, engineers and doctors, but Britain isn't -- it's ridiculous," she said.

Ms Rasekoala, a chemical engineer, will tell a meeting on science and race on Wednesday that the problem starts in schools, where black children were stereotyped as unable to excel at science.

The handful of black students who manage to overcome such obstacles, as well as a lack of appropriate role models, and reach university, find themselves isolated and often opt for other disciplines, she added.

Yvonne Canham-Spence, a project worker with the civil service union IPMS, one of the four Science Alliance unions that helped organise the meeting, said discrimination does not stop with education. She said the few scientists who found work in UK laboratories - most of whom were educated at least in part abroad - still faced many problems.

A spokeswoman for the lecturers' union Natfhe, another member of the Science Alliance, warned: "If the UK is to become a knowledge economy based upon scientific research and development, then we cannot afford to waste the talents and skills of black would-be scientists."

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