Our Stories Are Not Just About Suffering And Discrimination, There Is So Much To Celebrate And Of Which To Be Proud

Why mum-of-two Oriana Gowie started her own Black history learning platform for kids, Tuntimo.

Children taking selfie together

by Oriana Gowie |

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Like any other parent, in the early months, I found myself caught up with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic as schools were closed and children were at home every day. I was kept busy juggling working from home, doing the regular household chores, and supervising my two children as they attended school online. An additional challenge I faced was finding engaging online activities to keep them occupied.

What made this doubly difficult was I needed to find online content that positively featured my family’s African heritage, especially from a British perspective. I was disappointed by the scarcity of fun and interactive digital platforms that would give young British children and their families a better understanding of Black history.

Most of the materials I found were geared mostly towards the African American experience. Then I realised that I needed to do something to fill the gap, rather than sit and complain. This was when the idea of creating a new interactive online educational platform to teach young Black children about their heritage and reaffirm their value and worthwhile making learning fun and interactive.

What further motivated me to build this site was the story of the brutal murder of George Floyd in the USA because of the colour of his skin. This I found very hard to grasp even though I was miles away from where it happened. I asked, how could something like this still take place in the 21st century? How could people be filled with so much hatred to commit such a heinous act? Had nothing changed over all these years? In talking to family and friends, I found out that this incident brought much pain, even as they recalled their own experiences with racism.

The horror of this event galvanized me into action to try and find a way to alleviate some of the pain being felt by Black communities everywhere. So, with the encouragement of my husband, I started to search for positive life-affirming stories about Black persons so I could tell them to my children and let others read them, by doing this, I felt I would be letting them, and others know that our stories are not just about suffering and discrimination, but there was much to celebrate and of which to be proud.

It took me a while to come up with a name in keeping with the purpose and objectives of the site. I finally I settled on Tuntimo, a combination of two words from different African languages. Tuntimo – means Black in Twi (Ghanaian) + imo – means knowledge in Yoruba (Nigerian). This I considered to be most fitting as I wanted my children to be proud of who they are, what they could be and to know that they can dream big. I wanted to build a foundation and a strong sense of identity as to who they are. It meant making them see beyond the civil rights movement and the transatlantic slave trade and learning about Black kings and queens, empires, dynasties, inventors, writers, and other world changers.

The website is an innovative digital space that is fun with many interactive educational resources. These are all centred around Black British and African history including famous personalities from the ancient to the present times. Here, children will find former great kings, queens, and warriors from Africa as well as modern celebrities, sports stars and athletes, acclaimed authors, poets, inventors, scientists, astronauts and more in the diaspora. Children ages 5-11 can explore and learn about the rich legacy of Black history through developmentally appropriate activities.

The site is has more than 200 profiles, 200 quizzes, puzzles, games, and word searches, and about 2,000 questions and answers in addition to many illustrations and animations. I just want to point out that games play a big part in learning for children today, and so they are interactive and fun with each one designed to offer children a different learning experience. Overall, the online platform supports children with different learning styles, allowing them to navigate independently or with their parents to learn about history and build their self-confidence.

I also want to mention that, based on its varied contents, Tuntimo is a perfect complement to the teaching of Black history in school. At the moment, this tends to tell only half of the story, focusing only on the suffering and injustices of Black people rather than also showing the positives of their achievements in the past and in the present. Furthermore, the history is often written in language that is too academic, rendering it mostly inaccessible to children and young people in general.

Tuntimo
©Tuntimo

An additional advantage of the Tuntimo site is the fact that it will focus on Black British history which is well needed to counteract the over-abundance of material available solely from the African American perspective. For example, have you ever heard of Pauline Henriques, the first Black female actress for British television and also the first Black female Justice of the Peace? Or Walter Tull, one of Britain’s first Black professional footballers and the first Black officer to lead white British soldiers into battle? I am sure most of you have not, and if this is the case, these names deserve to be remembered. Tuntimo makes this possible for children everywhere.

Tuntimo is part of a non-profit organisation offering information, activities and games that empower children to learn at their own pace at home or in the classroom. The current website created by Tuntimo CIC is available all year round on a free-to-access basis.

I just want to say that I could not have created this platform alone. First, it turned out to be a very good family project where I had everyone’s support as they all pitched in to help when needed. I am also grateful to my army of volunteers including teachers, parents, students, content writers and others.

To keep this website going I am currently seeking sponsors to help us move it to phase 2 as we transform it into a custom-built platform with a greater variety of games and activities. At the moment, the platform is mobile friendly but configured for full access by a laptop/desktop computer. Ideally, we would like to create an app as most of our users are accessing the site via mobile devices. For this to happen, we need the support of donations at any level as we could not have gotten this far without the help of our amazing donors.

I am sure we all love to see a platform that joyfully celebrates Black excellence throughout history, showing children (and parents!) how Black people and communities have contributed to the world.

If you’d like to donate to support the platform via corporate sponsorship, donating, volunteering or offering to partner with us, please visit the Tuntimo our donation page on our website to email info@tuntimo.com__.

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