It is difficult for me to pick out one teacher from a number of whom I was fond and who left a lasting impression on me, writes Clare Short.
My first school was St Francis RC Junior and Infants School in Brougham Street in Handsworth in Birmingham. I remember objecting to having to go to school in 1950 aged four and insisting that I would prefer to stay at home with my mum to listen to Listen with Mother on the wireless.
My mum dragged me crying and objecting down to the school and Miss Kelly, who was in charge of reception, told me she would make me a monitor and give me a penny if I stayed. I have another strong memory of the reception class at St Francis. After playtime, we had to line up, boys and girls in separate lines, and the boys had to salute and the girls curtsy as
THE TEACHERS WHO INSPIRED ME
we went past the teacher!
I have happy memories of St Francis; my proudest is that when, during the Suez Crisis, children were singing “We’ll throw Nasser in the Suez Canal”, I rounded them up and explained that the canal went through Egypt, and Nasser had a perfect right to nationalise it. I don’t remember any teachers being present on that occasion.
for Girls. It is still there, now a very high-quality comprehensive. Incidentally, my youngest sister was the only one of us who didn’t go to St Paul’s. Instead, she went to
Cardinal Wiseman, our local Catholic comprehensive in Birmingham, and did as well as, if not better than, all the rest of us educationally and professionally.
The head of the school was Sr Colette. She died many years ago but is still remembered with great respect and affection.
There were a number of teachers that stand out in my memory: Sr Marie, who taught me maths when I was 11, and in later years, Miss Lloyd for poetry and history.
In terms of influential teachers, I think more of my secondary school, which was St Paul’s RC Grammar School
But my fondest memory was Miss Samuels who taught me maths in 1958; she had a tough reputation and was generally feared, rather than liked. But I can remember her setting us geometry proofs for homework and, when she gave the answer on the blackboard, I explained that I had a shorter, better proof. She got me to write mine out alongside hers and then conceded it was more elegant. I fear that Ofsted doesn’t allow for such characters any more.
In general, I enjoyed my schooldays and have fond memories of many teachers. I still think teaching is one of the most honourable professions; but fear that the endless centralised change from successive governments has made it less fun for teachers and pupils.
■ Clare Short, 66, former Secretary of State for International Development, is active in organisations working for social justice in the developing world.
Department of Theology and Religion
Durham University MA Christian Theology (Pathway in Catholic Studies)
Lewis Ayres • Giles Gasper • Carol Harrison
Christopher Insole • Gerard Loughlin Paul D. Murray • Marcus Pound • Alec Ryrie
The Practice of Theology in the Catholic Tradition
Transformative Listening Principles of Theological Ethics Conceiving Change in Contemporary Catholicism
Twentieth-Century Catholic Theologians Theology & Asceticism in the Ancient Catholic Tradition and in conjunction with The Institute of
Medieval and Renaissance Studies
The Church in the Middle Ages Heterodoxy, Orthodoxy, and Persecution
Images and Iconography Other MA programmes are available in: Anglican Studies, Theology & Religion, Biblical Studies, Religion and Society. Also available, supervision in M.Litt, PhD, and DThM (Doctorate in Theology and Ministry)
For further details please contact the postgraduate admissions secretary: Tel: 0191 334 3929
firstname.lastname@example.org www.durham.ac.uk/theology.religion Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University,
Abbey House, Palace Green, Durham, DH1 3RS UK
s2 | TABLET Education | 19 May 2012
(Continued from page s1.)
maintained primary schools were living in postcode areas with above average deprivation levels in 2010, compared with 56 per cent of pupils at all maintained schools. Similarly, about a third of pupils at Catholic primary schools live in the 20 per cent most deprived postcode areas, compared with just over a quarter of pupils in all maintained primary schools.
The index records similar statistics for secondary schools, with 60 per cent of Catholic pupils living in areas with aboveaverage deprivation levels compared with 52 per cent of pupils as a whole. The contrast is particularly stark in the 10 per cent of postcode areas with the highest deprivation where 17 per cent of all Catholic secondary pupils go to school, compared with 12 per cent of all secondary pupils.
“There is clearly a gap and we are carrying out research to identify what the reasons are for that gap. We have been talking to head teachers and what they point to is that the make-up of Catholic schools is likely to be at least one factor behind it,” said Maeve McCormack of the CES.
“Our schools tend to have large immigrant communities within them and it may be that many of those families are not yet sufficiently in the system to be able to claim free school meals, or may not realise they can claim them. Certainly, for children from some cultural backgrounds, their parents just will not claim free school meals because they do not like the idea of the state providing food for their child.”
A major part of the problem seems to be that, although the pupil premium is based on eligibility for free meals, not every family is assessed for eligibility. “Although the Department for Education talks about eligibility and take-up, it’s only families who have applied and who are eligible that are included in the premium. So there are a huge number of families who just aren’t calculated within the eligibility data. That doesn’t necessarily mean they wouldn’t be eligible, it simply means they have not filled in the paperwork,” said McCormack.
For Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School, the potential loss of funding from families who fail to take up their entitlement to free dinners is substantial, said Nick Soar, head of the girls’ school. “In Tower Hamlets, we have the highest child poverty rates in Britain. Across the borough, more than half of pupils are eligible for free school meals and only 33 per cent of ours are eligible,” said Soar. “We do get parents who want free school meals but that doesn’t count for a lot of our students who have come in from abroad. We are still trying to get to the bottom of this. What we are particularly looking at is just how many of our recently arrived pupils from Lithuania and Brazil should be claiming for free school meals.” While the school’s free meals take-up suggests its intake may be less disadvantaged than that of other Tower Hamlet schools, there is evidence to suggest otherwise. For more than half of its pupils, English is not their first language, usually a
(Continued on page s4.) What would it take to make a real difference in a small African country faced with a huge poverty problem? “Huge” in the sense that the majority of the people struggle to get by on the equivalent of US$1 a day, and the United Nations ranks this country 171 out of 187 on its “human development index”. That index measures life’s basics such as life expectancy, literacy and access to food. How can a country with lots of natural resources – land, water, agriculture, fish, timber – turn the corner and begin to really develop in a way that benefits all the people?
I live in just such a country: Malawi, in the southern part of Africa, a former British colony, a country with great potential but also with great problems. How can the potentials effectively be applied to the problems, so that all 15 million Malawians can truly be on the road to sustainable development?
Some people say, “Bring in the Chinese!” And yes, the Chinese have come and are building a lot of roads, hotels, stadiums. Others say, “More technical assistance, like computers from the European Union.” And yes, that assistance does come and is used by some. Others even argue, “Follow the advice of the US and plant more GMOs – genetically modified maize, cotton, ground nuts, etc.” Well, for the moment, complete adoption of the GMO approach is temporarily on hold.
It is very obvious that there simply will be no development in a country like Malawi if the people don’t have a chance for good education. Education of the people is essential.
That basic fact is what has motivated the Jesuits of the Zambia-Malawi Province to undertake a new and challenging project in Malawi – the establishment of Loyola Jesuit Secondary School (LJSS). Jesuits have been in the education business since our founding over 400 years ago, and our schools are scattered across the world.
I’ve been involved in development, justice and peace work for many years, including the past two decades in Africa. But I was genuinely surprised – indeed, shocked and saddened – when I learned the disturbing statistic that fewer than 35 per cent of Malawian youth have a chance to attend secondary school, and of those who complete four years of that schooling (many drop out), fewer than 45 per cent get passing marks on the final exam. And the figures for young women are much lower. While primary-school education is supposed to be open for all children, much of it is hampered by lack of qualified teachers, inadequate classroom facilities and insufficient educational materials. And then access to secondary education is denied the majority of youngsters who might manage to complete primary school. We Jesuits hope to contribute something to overcoming the educational deficit in Malawi when Loyola Jesuit Secondary School opens its doors in another year or so. It really is an “option for the poor” in many
Let’s hear it for girl power When the Jesuits decided to set up a secondary school in Malawi, many thought it would be a boys’school in the capital. Instead, they opted for a co-educational institution in a rural area. Peter Henriot SJ explains why
Pupils from S Joseph’s Catholic Primary School excitedly visit the Loyola site ways. Rather than set up an elite all-boys school located in the capital city, Lilongwe, we Jesuits have chosen to open a co-educational boarding school in Kasungu, a poor rural town 120km (75 miles) from the capital. It will be for 500 students, with explicit commitment to gender equality.
In cooperation with the Government of Malawi, it will be operated as a “grant-aided school”, whereby the Government pays the teachers and provides some other needs. This means that tuition fees will be much lower than in a private school, making access to Loyola Jesuit more readily available to families of lesser means. What this will mean in very concrete terms for some students in Malawi can be told in the story of Thandiwe, a young girl living in the vicinity of LJSS. Thandiwe’s story as constructed here is a composite of typical features that can be repeated many times throughout Malawi today.
This year, Thandiwe will graduate from Standard Eight (eighth grade) of a government primary school. And it is anticipated that she will finish with high marks. Thandiwe wants very much to go on to a good secondary school next year and some day to become a nurse, maybe even a doctor. But she worries because most people she knows, especially women, never completed secondary school.
The closest government secondary school to Thandiwe’s village home is 8km (five miles) away – a 90-minute walk twice a day. Like most government secondary schools in the Kasungu district, it has no electricity, library, science lab, or even running water. Sixty per cent of the students from these schools generally drop out, and close to half of those who remain fail the final exams.
It’s particularly hard for girls to succeed. That’s because they are required to cook, clean the house, work in the fields and care for their younger siblings in addition to, or in place of, their studies. Girls are often sexually assaulted on the way to school, and many drop out due to early pregnancies. A private, well-equipped boarding school could help address many of these problems. But Thandiwe’s family simply could not begin to afford the fees at such a private school.
Given this reality, as bright, hard-working and ambitious as Thandiwe is, it’s likely that her formal education will simply come to a halt at the completion of her Standard Eight in primary school. Her ambitions for further education that would enable her to make some significant contributions to the real development of Malawi will be stifled. Unfortunately, Thandiwe’s situation is all too common in the country, with immediate ill effects and long-term damaging consequences. What will it take to give Thandiwe an opportunity for a good education and the chance to contribute to the development of her country? In its official documents, the Government of Malawi has emphasised that education through secondary-school level is a basic right, especially for girls. But the budget constraints faced in a very poor country makes the realisation of that right a faraway dream if only the commitment of the Government is relied upon. We Jesuits are therefore taking up the challenge in Malawi (and in several other African countries facing similar situations) to set up a good and accessible secondary school. With initial support coming mainly from generous church groups in Europe, we are on our way with hopes to enrol young people like Thandiwe by early 2014.
For more information about Loyola Jesuit Secondary School and ways in which you can help us, please go to our website, www.loyola-malawi.org, or www.facebook.com/loyolamw
■ Peter Henriot SJ is involved in education and development work in Malawi.
19 May 2012 | TABLET Education | s3