UK college apologises to ex-Nigerian student years after racist experience

Nigerian writer, Dillibie Onyeama [Photo credit: BBC]
Nigerian writer, Dillibie Onyeama [Photo credit: BBC]

A prestigious British public school, Eton College, has apologised to an ex-student, Dillibe Onyeama, a Nigerian who is now an accomplished writer, for being subjected to racial discrimination while its student.

This comes as the global outpouring against the killing in police custody of George Floyd in the US continues to flare up conversations about past experiences of racial injustice.

Mr Onyeama, who was the first Nigerian and first black student to graduate from Eton College, obtained his school-leaving certificate in 1969.

Baring his mind on Black Lives Matter in an interview with the BBC, the Nigerian writer shared how racial subjugation and subsequent banning from Eton College spurred him to write a book about his experience at the school.

When contacted for comment by the BBC, the headmaster, Eton College, Simon Henderson, said he was “appalled” by the racism experienced by Mr Onyeama.

Eton College is reputable for educating some of the highest-ranking members of the British society, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is the 20th British prime minister to have attended the school, as well as Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and both Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, former Duke of Sussex.

Mr Henderson said the school had made great strides in handling racial matters without mentioning but acknowledged that there is “more to do.”

“We have made significant strides since Onyeama was at Eton but – as millions of people around the world rightly raise their voices in protest against racial discrimination and inequality – we have to have the institutional and personal humility to acknowledge that we still have more to do,” the headmaster said.”

He promised to invite Mr Onyeama to apologise in person and “to make it clear that he will always be welcome at Eton.”

“We must all speak out and commit to doing better – permanently – and I am determined that we seize this moment as a catalyst for real and sustained change for the better,” the headmaster added.

But Mr Onyeama told BBC that the apology was unnecessary and did not change his view of Eton, which on the whole was positive.

The writer, who said he was taunted on a daily basis at Eton by fellow students, added that the apology “compels the recognition that prejudice on the grounds of colour or race dehumanises its victims in a way that ordinary forms of prejudice do not.”



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