'Pupil asked me for ganja'

26th September 2003 at 01:00
Peter O-Kang is employed at one of the best schools in West Sussex. But even he cannot escape the occasional racist slur from pupils. The newly-qualified maths teacher first arrived from his native Ghana at the age of 14 and has lived in this country, on and off, for the past 23 years.

He is the only black teacher at Steyning grammar and insists his first job has been highly rewarding and staff could not be more supportive.

But, since taking up the position, he has occasionally endured the same taunts levelled by pupils at many overseas teachers working in the South-east. "Most of the kids are fine and this is a great school," he said. "But it can be tougher with the older ones, some of them can antagonise you. One of them asked me recently if I had any ganja I could give them. Another one asked me did I use to have dreadlocks. You don't know if it's out of ignorance or they are just being silly, but the odd comment can be horrible."

Mr O-Kang, 37, started at the school in May as a trainee and became a fully-qualified member of staff this month. "I enjoy working here but I'm the only black teacher out of 140-plus members of staff and it is obvious some of the kids don't know how to act. I tell them I'm a human being like everyone else."

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