photo: Nationaal Archief Curaçao

ROTTERDAM – Attention to slavery seems to have decreased in secondary schools in the Netherlands. Teachers are apprehensive to the subject, so they avoid the subject. This became evident in discussions conducted by scientists with teachers and officials of the Ministry of Education.

Reality plays a big role, such as the discussion on Zwarte Piet and its relation to slavery. “Also in the class, this stirs up a lot of emotions. Teachers have no time or interest for this,” said Professor of Caribbean History Alex van Stipriaan. “You will also see this with teachers who have addressed these topics in the past.”

Worrisome trend
A ‘worrisome trend’, deemed by the Professor of Erasmus University. “Also in the four major teaching methods (history books, red.) it appears to be a decline in attention.” In science, more attention is being paid to slavery, but it is not passed on through education. “More and more scientists share this worry. Certainly, those scientists in my faculty whose concentration is on education and history education.”

Maria Reinders-Karg, a former employee of the National Institute of Dutch Slave History and Heritage, has been giving lectures at schools in the Netherlands for the last six years. She has hands on experience with the problem. “It is true that teachers do not take initiative, partly because they themselves do not know the history. Surinamese and Antillean teachers in the Netherlands also avoid the subject because fear of repercussions,” says the anthropologist.

‘Surinamese and Antillean teachers in the Netherlands also avoid the subject’

Reinders-Karg said an easier approach to the subject would be to ask the students a simple question: “Why do you think colored people live here? You can immediately link this with current discussions, such as modern slavery in the Netherlands. Then students understand it easier.”

According to Head Professor van Stipriaan research into the situation at all schools in the Netherlands needs to be carried out soon. The most recent research was carried out in 2011, amongst sixteen secondary schools in Amsterdam.

Attention to slavery ranged per school from less than one lesson period per year to more than ten. “Schools that gave the most attention to slavery were generally black schools.”

The national memorial of Dutch slavery will be held at the Oosterpark in Amsterdam on Saturday, July 1, 2017. NOS will broadcast the ceremony live from 1:00pm on NPO. In the evening, a summary of the memorial in the Oosterpark will be broadcasted with commentators and reports on NPO 2 at 7:35pm.