Shabina Aslam was a seven-year-old in Bradford when she was placed on a bus and moved out to a white-majority suburban school, where she and her brother were placed in the special needs department. This is despite the pair – whose family had migrated from Kenya as part of the exodus of Indians from east Africa – being fluent in several languages.
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“We thought we were going on an adventure because we were told we would see snow for the first time,” Aslam told the Guardian. “But it was completely alienating –no other children of colour at the school. We didn’t understand why we had been sent there.”
The siblings were just two of an estimated 500,000 black and Asian children who were bussed out of their communities to “white” schools in a controversial policy implemented by local authorities across the country in the 1960s and 1970s.
Now, 50 years later, Aslam has returned to Bradford to open an exhibition exploring the policy’s impact on those affected.
“Bussing was a way of dealing with what they perceived as a problem – too many non-white children in inner-city schools,” said Aslam. “But it was also a way of segregating communities and entrenching division.”
The exhibition, which is being held at the Bradford City Museum, features testimonies from some of those bussed out as children, as well as photographs and documents from the time.
Aslam hopes it will help raise awareness of a little-known chapter in Britain’s history and start a conversation about race and identity.
“For many of us, this is a hidden history,” she said. “It’s not something that is talked about or even remembered. But it’s important that we do because it helps explain some of the current divisions in our society.”
The exhibition runs from 28 October to 3 December. Admission is free.
In your opinion, what was the most harmful aspect of the bussing policy?
Do you think that something like this could happen today? Why or why not?
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