Neil Mayers Educational consultant and author is being serialised on the NuOrigins website. We want to share with our audience Neil Mayers important contribution to educating black children in the UK.
Neil Mayers has over 20 years’ experience in the education sector. He holds a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) in Maths. Speaking frankly, he declares how he became a Maths teacher by default. ‘’I got to the second year of my Engineering degree and I realised that this wasn’t going to be for me. I had to decide as to whether I finished it, or just dropped out. But I decided to finish it just so that if I was going to study something after this I didn’t have to do three years of it, so if I finish the degree I can do it (PGCE Maths) as a postgraduate where I don’t have to do three or four years. So, I decided to finish the degree.’’ After completing his Bachelor’s (undergraduate) degree he spent approximately eighteen months where Mayers said he was ‘’Trying to find what I was supposed to do.’’
‘’I did an African World Study course with (Dr) Femi Biko and Robin Walker which kind of changed my life.”
The information bestowed to him during the course left him deeply introspective. Just three weeks into the course, Mayers admits that he was thinking,
‘’If I knew this stuff when I was at school, I would be such a different…or I would at least be ten years further ahead on my journey if I had known this earlier on.”
Fascinated by his newly acquired knowledge, Mayers was determined to create a GCSE Black/African History. But the idea was later abandoned because of two fundamental obstacles. ‘’Anybody who wants to create a GCSE has got to sell it to the exam board. So an exam board has to buy it, knowing that it is going to be viable and knowing that they can sell it to loads of people. And then it becomes, well how do you sell something? And I suppose that’s when liberties start to be taken in terms of content because you want to make it more saleable.’’ The second concern was related to who was going to teach the content? ‘’It is not as if I can clone myself and just go around teaching it everywhere’’ remarks Mayers. Distrust of allowing anyone to teach such a course, Mayers concluded that it would not be feasible. ‘’I just didn’t see European people teaching it (GCSE Black/African History) in the same way that somebody, not even just a black person, but somebody who has actually studied under the right people.’’
‘’My whole thing was just children need to know this, end of the story.” Still determined to impart his knowledge of African History onto children, his ethos at the time was ‘’I will teach something and Black history will be on the side, or after school, or before school, or during lunch-time, or during break time, or just walking down the corridor. Somehow, I would find a way to teach this stuff to children and create a new generation of activists who were just going to save us. By default, I would say us all, but it is all about saving African people.”
During this period, Mayers was contemplating what subject he should teach to aid him in achieving the ambitious objective of providing children with authentic Black History. He was adamant that he wanted to stay clear of qualifying as a History teacher because ‘’there is hardly any African content in the History curriculum’’ and not particularly enamored by English he decided to choose Maths. Surprisingly he states, he doesn’t even like Maths. This is hardly a revelation for any pupils that Mayers has taught. ‘’All my students know that. Anybody that I have ever taught, knows that I do not like Maths’’ says Mayers. The decision to qualify as a teacher in Maths appears to have been more of a practical endeavour to achieve his mission. Studying Maths at a high level throughout his Civil Engineering degree emboldened Mayers with the confidence to teach the subject. He had already taught his peers’ Maths at University and has a great ingenuity for converting complex factors into more simplified language. The decision to qualify as a teacher occurred very abruptly. Reflecting on the moment Mayers reveals ‘’I made the decision on a Friday evening and on a Tuesday morning I was on a PGCE for Maths at Greenwich University.’’ It was already October and after phoning various universities, Greenwich said they would interview Mayers, but stated he would have to commence the following year, if successful. The interview was so fruitful, that he was told he could start the PGCE degree immediately if he believed that he could catch up with the lectures he had missed. While his entry into teaching may have been abrupt, Mayers commitment to improving the lives of Black children through raising attainment has been intentional and strategic.
For further information on Neil Mayers, visit: https://raisingblackachievement.com/