Benjamin Zephaniah speaks out about dyslexia
Friday 12 October 2012 | 07866 757 389
Funding cuts to education risk support for young dyslexics says poet Benjamin Zephaniah
In an interview out on Friday (12 Oct) with youth magazine, FV1, published by Tower Hamlets youth charity, Futureversity, to coincide with Dyslexia Awareness Week, poet, novelist and playwright Benjamin Zephaniah warns: ‘Funding cuts to education services risk worsening support for young people with dyslexia.’
The warning comes as research from Dyslexia Action (Oct 2012) and The World Illiteracy Foundation (1.) estimates that the cost of illiteracy to the UK economy is £81billion and suggests getting it right for those with dyslexia would, at a cautious estimate, solve the literacy problems for at least one in ten of those currently failing. And when the Cass Business School in London (2.) says: ‘One in five entrepreneurs in the UK is a dyslexic, and that this group tend to start more companies and employ more people than their non-dyslexic counterparts’.
Speaking as a dyslexic who was kicked out of school at the age of 13, unable to read or write, Benjamin Zephaniah said: ‘At that time no none knew what dyslexia was so I was just always seen as the awkward one…To me school needs to be broadened out so that teachers know how to deal with dyslexia properly – in a way that recognises the difference positively. The important thing for anyone with dyslexia is you’ve got to overcome people’s misconceptions. And how you overcome these is being good at what you do. Young people have to get out there and write their own story because if they don’t someone else will do it for them. My mantra is dyslexia is not a measure of intelligence’.
The interview was carried out by Futureversity dyslexic student, Bayar Hassan, as part of the charity’s launch of its new, interactive, digital magazine FV1 to help young people aged 16 -25 get their views, and opinions published in an online magazine. This is following a survey carried out earlier this year of 2,000 British adults which revealed two thirds (69%) thought public institutions such as the police have a negative impression of young people, and 63% felt the media and politicians unfairly stereotype them as being lazy.
As well as the interview about the impacts of dyslexia with Benjamin Zephaniah the magazine includes an interview with Tottenham MP, David Lammy about his belief that the blame for last year’s riots should not fall squarely on the young people involved, but on their absent fathers who are running away from their responsibilities. And, in response to the British media’s shocking negativity towards China throughout the Olympics, FV1’s Chinese student, Jiaqi, shares her honest account of life as a young person living in China.
RASP (3.) the first ever publishing enterprise set-up to develop and publish dyslexic writers is backing the magazine launch. Director Dr Naomi Fob said: ‘As a dyslexic myself I know how frustrating it is when teachers mistake dyslexia for laziness. To allow dyslexics to be part of our education system, we need to train teachers to be aware of dyslexia and know how to respond to dyslexics without anger and fear. This is not happening. I’m delighted Futureversity is doing more to help. The voice of young people with dyslexia goes so often unheard, but this group is often the most enterprising and creative. Without the investment in education services we run a great risk of excluding these young people from an education, which will have ramifications for the country’s future success.’
A full copy of the Benjamin Zephaniah interview and others can be downloaded from www.futureversity.org
FV1 magazine Editor, Liz Millar, said: “If you love writing and want to share your ideas, or give comment to any of the interviews and articles already published visit www.futureversity.org. We’re also welcoming short articles from young people everywhere for our new magazine. Check out www.futurevesity.org
Notes to editor
(1.) According to Dyslexia Action (Oct 2012) and The World Literacy Foundation: The Economic Cost of Illiteracy – interim reportwww.dyslexiaaction.org.uk t.) 01784 222305
(2.) The Cass Business School submitted evidence, including the claim ‘one in five entrepreneurs in the UK dyslexic, as part of the research gathered for ‘In Their Element: The Case for Investing in Dyslexic Entrepreneurs’ (2012)
(3.) Publishing enterprise RASP set up in 2007 aims to change social attitudes to difference, challenge misperceptions about dyslexia, and bring something fresh to the literary landscape. Funded by Performance English Trust, Goldsmiths, Culture Capital Exchange and others, it began publishing dyslexic writers, including young writers, as a way of subverting the belief that dyslexics would be better off in a world without books.
(4.) Futureversity delivers award-winning free courses and activities for 11-25 year olds to help them develop the skills and self-belief they need to make the most of their lives. Piloted as a crime prevention initiative in Tower Hamlets in 1995 (as Summer University), today the charity delivers learning opportunities to thousands of young people in partnership with businesses, industry professionals and local government. Last year (2011-2012), Futureversity courses were oversubscribed by five times. Futureversity patrons include two of its former student, music artist Dizzee Rascal and co-founder MP Rushanara Ali, film director Danny Boyle and acclaimed poet Benjamin Zephaniah
(5.) Last May (2012) Futureversity conducted a survey with young people representing the views of over 1,000 young people (aged 16-25) from across London. Young people said schools are not giving them confidence or skills to succeed. The majority (60%) said they felt doors are closed when looking for jobs. 53% said that they cannot afford to go to university, and many (63%) said that they will not achieve their career ambitions. And a separate ComRes poll of over 2,000 British adults that showed the vast majority (85%) of people recognising it is more difficult to get a permanent paid job now than it used to be for young people, yet one in four (27%) Britons think young people are lazy, with one in three describing young people they know as lacking communication skills.