Amrita Dani

BPS Alternative Education HS, Boston MA

Research in Cape Verde the impact of colonialism on its culture and language to work toward creating a welcoming and social justice-oriented school community where students emigrating from there feel valued and empowered.

Where I've Been

  • Fogo, Cape Verde Islands
  • Praia, Cape Verde Islands
  • Sao Vicente, Cape Verde Islands
  • Terrafal, Cape Verde Islands

My Fellowship in Images

At the Amilcar Cabral Museum and through conversation with Pedro Pires, Iva Cabral, and others, we were able to gather many materials we can use to teach our students more deeply about the anticolonial struggle in Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau.
Meeting the grandparents and uncle of one of our students truly helped us see the need for making these global connections; we were able to show videos of the student’s work and even called the student as we visited!
Again, we were able to meet one of our student’s mothers and learn so much about him specifically, his family, and also what must be common experiences to many of our Cape Verdean students.
In Fogo, at Cha das Caldeiras. We learned about the volcanic eruption in 2014 that displaced about 1,000 people and met some people who had chosen to return and rebuild atop the ruins of their former lives.
Learning more about the education system in Cape Verde from the principal of the high school in Brava will go a long way towards our ability to work with Cape Verdean students and understand some of the strengths and challenges they bring with them.
At Cape Verde’s 1st International Percussion Festival celebrating West African drumming, I met incredible musicians and activists, including the organizer of the festival, Kwame Gamal Mascarenhas, a physical education teacher and artist.

Your Personal and Professional Growth

How have your knowledge, skills and capabilities grown?

Through this fellowship, my knowledge about Cape Verdean history, particularly the anticolonial struggle, has grown through experiential and on-site learning as well as conversations with historians and key figures from the anticolonial era, such as Pedro Pires. My Kriolu conversation skills have also grown a great deal, though I still have a lot of learning to do. Finally, my capability for working collaboratively has improved by getting the opportunity to travel and learn with coworkers.

As a result, in what ways will your instructional practice change?

The content knowledge will support my development of new curriculum to teach our students about social justice movements around the world; I will also be more equipped to design examples that relate to Cape Verde when teaching about race, identity, inequality, or other issues. The home visits and language practice we did in CV will better equip me to support students and their families in Boston, because I will be better able to make people feel comfortable by speaking their mother tongue.

What is the greatest personal accomplishment of your fellowship?

I think that my greatest personal accomplishment of the trip was being able to conduct home visits with family members of our students entirely in Kriolu with my coworkers; we were all nervous about the prospect of relying solely on our beginner-level Kriolu, but we managed to do so anyway and the experiences were very positive. Family members were so understanding and eager to learn more about their students, and we got to learn so much. I'm excited to continue visits in Boston with family.

Impact on Your Classroom, School and Community

How will your experiences positively impact student learning in new ways?

I hope that, as a result of my learning this summer, I will be able to support my Cape Verdean students better than I would have before, partly through greater facility with speaking Kriolu. I believe strongly that showing a commitment to learning a student’s language goes a long way to build trust and to build students’ own confidence in their language learning abilities; I get to model what language learning looks like, with all the mistakes, stumbling, and joy of that struggle.

What are your plans for working collaboratively with colleagues?

We hope to continue curriculum development that will support all of our students in developing their understanding of the intersections of global struggles for independence, freedom, and equality. Being able to draw on the Cape Verdean example is good for both Cape Verdean and non-Cape Verdean students, and with the materials we gathered from talking to historians, artists, and museum curators in Cape Verde, we should be able to teach that content more accurately and thoroughly than before.

Imagining the Future

How do you envision celebrating of your students’ new learning?

In addition to school showcase events, we hope that we can use social media to connect with students’ families in their home countries and share student performances and work with them; we hadn’t considered doing this as a school before, but now that we were able to go to Cape Verde, share student work with families, and see how proud people were of their students, we want to make that experience a reality for all of our students! And with today’s technology, that is an entirely feasible goal.

Are there issues or challenges in your school, community or the greater world about which you and your students might try to make a difference?

Overall, I believe that this fellowship gave me a better sense for how interconnected our struggles for liberation are around the world; the poverty and inequality Cape Verdeans face in the global marketplace are an injustice that mirrors the inequality that exists within the United States. I feel more compelled than ever to help students make these connections and see ways forward through international solidarity and support for social change.

How would you describe to a friend or a grant funder the most fundamental ways in which your fellowship has changed your personal and/or professional perspective?

Ultimately, this fellowship has given me a renewed sense of the importance of teaching not just language but the politics of language and global inequality; for students immigrating to America from anywhere, there’s a value in understanding that language, politics, and history are deeply intertwined. I hope that as a teacher, I’m able to help students see those relationships and ultimately, to challenge injustices in our world, both in the US and abroad.