Introducing AIELOC

Have you ever noticed the small AIELOC banner on the school website?

AIELOC started from the story of a woman who was a person of colour. She shared an
anecdote saying she was discouraged from applying for a leadership position at an international
school as her race and country of origin did not match the “expectations”.

The Association of International Educators and Leaders Of Colour (AIELOC) is an
organization that deals with racism, identity, equity, discrimination, justice, diversity and much
more. It was founded by Kevin Simpson in 2017. Would you like to be a part of such an
organization? It is noteworthy that ISD is a school member of this association.

Impact ofAIELOC
I, as an intern of this organization, believe that the meetings, core values, and success
have been exceedingly insightful and inspirational; as it made me take a deeper interest in the
inequity in my school community. It is because of such issues that I, as a teenager, constantly feel
like I don’t belong and have a fear of being judged. This is clearly visible through students
avoiding students and staff of a certain race, ethnicity, background etc. Some may also notice it
by looking at how some students are more privileged than others and are perceived to receive
more opportunities.

As an intern who has been a part of the association for the last 6 months I can assure you
of the fact that, It has impacted my overall thought and learning process in a significantly
positive manner. Every ISD student deserves the opportunity to speak up and express themselves
freely. AIELOC is the perfect place to do so as we meet with various leaders from around the
world and come together to share our experiences.

AIELOC at ISD
Considering ISD is one of the first members of AIELOC and thus should exemplify and
implement its core values through its regular practice. The organization deals with some notable
issues such as racism, discirmnation, injustice, gender biases,stereotypes. All of the
aforementioned have been recognized by ISD over the years and students have been actively
spreading the word about these. However, their efforts have fallen short due to other affairs.
Addressing these issues aids the school to provide a significantly better learning environment
resulting in a better sense of belonging for the students. It is hopeful to see that ISD is officially a
member of AIELOC as a small banner of the organization is visible on our official website.
However, when the official ISD website is accessed a small banner of the organization is visible;
this is not of much use as it does not give any background of the organization. Hence, a way to
show affiliation with AIELOC is to dedicate a page on the school blog or jag journal, expanding
on what the association does, and what it can do to help to improve ISD in the long run.

What hasAIELOC accomplished so far?
In an interview , Mr. Simpson tells us that the creation of AIELOC was his biggest
success so far as it grew from a mere Facebook page to a structured organization with various
connections to other schools and communities.

From 2017 to 2022 AIELOC has come a long way and the journey will continue on.
AIELOC plans to continue its expansion for a sustainable future. In the upcoming 5 years, it
envisions to, have a bigger impact on students and educators of color, start numerous programs,
develop enhanced PD sessions, advance in research and advocacy, and feature in the chapter of
a book Mr. Simpson has been working on.

Furthermore, AIELOC is making a huge difference as it organizes well-attended
conferences each year. It has created and/or supports groups of the global majority within
international education (Africa, Asia-Pacific, Middle-East) ; It is a founding member of the
anti-discrimination task-force for international schools; it is supporting schools at achieving
more diverse recruitment and, last but not least, it is supporting the exchange of more diverse
teaching resources in international education.

Taking into account all the success that AIELOC has achieved in just 5 years starting
with only one story; we can most certainly imagine the extent to which it can go if hundreds of
stories were shared, all the while challenging us to create a change.

Joshieta Pal
Intern at AIELOC
IBDP-1 (Grade: 11)

Working at an international school while Black and a local hire

Working at an international school while Black and a local hire
When I arrived at that school, it seemed like a great place to be: It seemed like an open-minded
community, and a break from the racism we usually experience in Pretoria.
I noticed that as long as you, a Black person, aren't seen as a threat to white local hires, your
stay at the school will be a good one. While my stay was “good”, I started experiencing
aggressions that weren’t so micro. White locals would deliberately ignore me and pretend like I
didn’t exist. That came in the form of not being greeted back in the hallways, them walking into a
room I was in and proceeding to greet their fellow white person and pretend like I wasn’t in the
room, to speaking in their language to keep me off conversations, but quickly switching to
English as soon as an international hire joins the group.

As each year passed, the aggressions grew bolder. I was told that I’m at that school only
because of the color of my skin, that I was an affirmative action hire and would never lose my
job. Comments about black people not being able to manage anything, us needing white people
to save us.

More black locals joined the school, but would exit within a year. We were all exhausted from
the treatment we were receiving. It always felt like I had to leave myself at the gate of the school
when entering and assume someone that was palatable by the institution. While everyone
would talk about their personal lives and where they are from, I didn’t feel like I could, as I
always felt as insignificant as how the support staff was regarded. I’d always get curious looks
whenever I would be seen talking to the support staff, because those people were seen to be
there only to serve and not exist to do anything else.

I had isolated myself from the community so much that I knew there was no way I would ever
function well at that school. My life at that school was very lonely, most of the Black local staff
didn’t interact much with each other, as we all dreaded finding out what the others were
experiencing. We all knew what was happening, but we didn’t want the other to confirm the
treatment we knew they were receiving.

Things got worse after the killing of George Floyd, we all felt that the proverbial yoke on our
necks was getting heavier. The discrimination was more overt and administration continued to
turn a blind eye. The school only responded to allegations laid by former students and even
those efforts were more damaging than anything. Things got worse, some white South African
teachers continued to weaponize their tears instead of taking accountability for their actions.
We’d even compare the school to a local private school (teaching jobs there are mainly
reserved for white people. Black people are only there to serve as support staff or teach native
languages).

The best decision I have ever made for myself was to leave that institution. Even in my
departure, the administration made sure to conceal the reason for my resignation. They decided
that me leaving to take care of my family sounded better than me leaving because I had decided
that I had had enough of the discrimination I had endured for years.

If a white teacher fails to see me, a Black adult as human, how are they able to teach students
who look like me and some even sound like me? Continuing to teach at that institution made me
feel like I was betraying myself, as I had told myself that my own children would not be in a
school like that. So how could I continue to be in a place that does not see my value as human
being, and watch young Black children have no choice but to spend the majority of their days
with people who think their people don’t deserve to share the same space as them?
My dream as a Black teacher is for us to not be reduced to fighting for a place at a table that
was not built for us, but that international schools would dismantle their current table by
revisiting their hiring practices, and start building a table that is big enough and designed for
every race.

I worked for a very brief time because I always felt left out and isolated.
Much of the communication was done in Afrikaans despite me not understanding the language,
unless our supervisor was around because she didn’t understand it either and she was an
international hire.

I struggled to find help from my peers, who sometimes ignored me and laughed at me and then
spoke in Afrikaans.

Conversations or topics on colonization and apartheid were often spoken about and my views
were commented on as, “ it was bad, but we need to move on and get along “. Or how it doesn’t
help now that what “your” people are now doing to us.

I was often told that there are no jobs for white people in South Africa and now they are forced
to move out of South Africa because of the reverse apartheid. The insensitive views of my one
peer on how apartheid was better than this democracy was offensive and cruel.

Conversations on how they were close to their family’s house help and found them to be like
their own sisters and how some of their daughters are still their helpers, I found it appalling and
each time I addressed that such should be humiliating because it shows a generational wrong,
as they are progressing in their lives but their very own help is still stuck in the vicious circle of
poverty. They would then reply in Afrikaans and laugh amongst each other.

The challenge was the superiority of the Afrikaans academic staff, and the school accepting it
as a norm. As it perpetuates stereotypes and if not addressed and forced to change would
never change.

More white educators were employed as compared to people of colour, we were a total of 5
and the salary was very different even though doing the same job.

My white colleagues used to take leave because their cats were not well but a Black South
African colleague, whose child was unwell was reprimanded for always taking leave.
Sometimes there was terrible weather or the taxis were on strike, the Black colleague who used
public transport would be labeled as always having challenges. But administration and our
white peers failed to be empathetic about the challenges of the trips from the suburbs to the
outer lying townships, especially for a black professionals. The conversations on campus were
that we (Black and white South African) were equal, but the treatment and actions were the total
opposite of what was being preached.

I was excluded in some of the teacher curriculum planning meetings but my white peer who was
at the same level and doing the same job as me was included in the meetings.
Sometimes, my peers failed to acknowledge my presence in the room but acknowledge each
other.

The local white peers strived to isolate, keep information from me but again the international
management lacked the interest, cultural/ historical sensitivity to be able to observe the situation
and engage us about it and lacked empathy for being black in a “white only bus”.
I was looking forward to learning and building relationships at the school. I lasted for a very
short time at the school, and was so happy to be out of that environment but had to be on
anxiety pills due to the level of psychosocial challenges that I encountered at the school.
Empathy is hearing what the other person is saying and allowing them to own their own story.
No one can ever walk in another's shoes because the minute they do, the shoes would take the
shape of their feet and would no longer be the other persons. These experiences were not
necessary to add to my already cruel South African experiences, but it proved to me that
irrespective of our South African song of reconciliation that school is many mountains away and
across the sea from arriving at the point of unity.

Reflecting on Natalie Obiko Pearson’s “Elite International Schools Have a Racism Problem.”

Do you track faculty diversity at your member schools?

Do you track pay discrepancy between white faculty and faculty of color, or expat hires vs. local hires?

Would you consider requiring your member schools to ban the use of photographs on faculty resumes and drop the native English speaker requirement?

 

Natalie Obiko Pearson, investigative reporter and Vancouver Bureau Chief at Bloomberg L.P., asked these pressing questions to multiple organizations in preparation for her article, “Elite International Schools Have a Racism Problem.” Published in March 2022, it circulated quickly within the International School ecosystem. Ms. Pearson graciously joined our April Community Visioning for about 90 minutes, answering questions directly from our AIELOC community.

Ms. Pearson based the article on her experience as an international school alumnus. Throughout her investigation, she conducted “Interviews with dozens of teachers, administrators, and recruiters.” She heard them “reveal hiring tactics unheard of in almost any other industry. International schools overtly prize White skin and calibrate salaries accordingly.” She shared her insights in receiving “the most baffling response” from well-known associations and education departments that “couldn’t even be bothered to respond.” Hearing her state the names of the organizations and institutions that continue to perpetuate systemic racism in the ecosystem was a relief to many in the audience.

Because of her personal connection to the story, Ms. Pearson took the time to listen and interview numerous members of our AIELOC community. The documentation of our experiences combined with her data analyses and inspection of the international school environment affirmed many of our lived experiences. She suggested, “I feel like another whole story could be done on the [insert international curriculum organization here] itself and how it’s managed to establish itself as the most elite curriculum in this sector and continues to evade these really difficult issues by saying, ‘we’re not prescriptive. We give a framework, and it’s up to the schools to decide.’”

AIELOC will continue to amplify the work of international educators and leaders of color. The Association of International Educators and Leaders of Color (AIELOC) is devoted to amplifying the work of international educators and leaders of color with a focus on advocacy, learning, and research.

New AIELOC Interns

Joshieta is a 15-year-old Indian student currently studying at the International School of Dakar. She is very passionate about technology, dance, art, and gadgets and has a  rich background in Taekwondo. She is a very kind-hearted person who loves to get to know people and help those in need. She is very interested in social justice issues as she values spreading positivity and kindness to others.

Originally from Benin, Terrence is a 15-year-old sophomore student at the International School of Dakar with a great work ethic, good academic achievements, and a passion for learning. He possesses thinking and risk-taking skills with great fluency in both English and French. Terrence is keen to pursue a career in the technology and business industries. As an individual, he is very interested in anything related to technology.

AIELOC and Teachers in Countries Where We are Guests

International education prides itself on being cross-cultural, linguistically versatile, and a
bridge between nations. Unfortunately, the voices of ethnically and culturally diverse
educators are often ignored or silenced (Gozali, Claassen Thrush, Soto-Peña, Whang,
& Luschei, 2017). They are often denied the opportunity to interview for positions and
speak or publish in the international school community.

In some contexts, teachers in countries where we are guests are:

  • Denied opportunities to interview for teaching positions
  • Denied access to equitable professional learning
  • Not invited to be part of the decisionmaking process
  • Treated as (personal) assistants
  • Told their education is not adequate enough for teaching in an international
    school

AIELOC has listened. Now is the time for all of us to act and ensure you are seen,
heard, valued, and affirmed. After all, for those of us who are guests in our respective
host countries, we must remember that (local) teachers are not only a valuable asset
but also knowledgeable of the culture and customs.

We Pledge To:

Be students of our host cultures and actively work toward understanding and engaging
our local communities.

To bring this pledge to life during 2022, we will:

  • Invite teachers from countries where we are guests to lead learning, open up
    dialogue, and join current AIELOC groups
  • Mentor teachers and seek pathways for them to access teaching and leadership
    positions
  • Offer free AIELOC membership to 100 teachers from countries where we are
    guests during 2022
  • Survey teachers to find out about their experiences, needs, and how we can
    collaborate
  • Work with all in order to address prejudice, racism, and discrimination.