|KILBURN TIMES July 3 2002
"The Way I see it"
Kay Chapman argues for pupil integration
I am a single and foster mother of two daughters in Kingsgate Primary School in Kilburn, a multi-racial school with children of 30 different nationalities a number of whom have fled war zones. My family emigrated from London to a village in the West Country when I was 10. Although I returned in my 20s, the experience of having been treated as an outsider by some of the villagers has given me an insight into the difficulties children seeking asylum face.
I am one of 20 mothers who have written urging our school to oppose government plans to keep such children away from mainstream education.
The Immigration, Nationality & Asylum Bill would introduce "Accommodation Centres" in isolated rural areas where children and families claiming asylum would be forced to live while their claims are being considered. Children would be denied the right to go to school with other children.
With the Bill more people, including women with young children, would be held in detention (like prisons) when they first arrive. Traumatised women, children and men who have been victims of the most horrendous violence, including rape and other torture, whose loved ones have been murdered in front of them, will be treated like criminals, denied basic human rights, independent legal advice and essential health care, and most crucially, the time they need to present their full case.
If passed this law will be devastating for the education of all children and the ethos of every school. Schools are concerned about racism, sexism and other bullying, which need constant vigilance. The setting up of an apartheid system for some children (unprecedented in this country), would undermine this work. Separate is never equal Ė many of us opposed and celebrated the end of separate education in South Africa. We donít want it here.
I strongly believe that all children, starting with English children, benefit from growing up in an integrated environment where they can make friends and be educated with children from all over the world. These are invaluable relationships which must be treasured. There is no better anti-racist education, so vital for a caring society, than to grow up in a multi-racial school ready to defend its most vulnerable pupils and would-be pupils. What better way than to learn first hand that no one needs, wants or deserves less than yourself?
Many of us parents were not so fortunate. We had to learn anti-racism from our children who take differences in race, nationality, language and religion for granted.
Recently released figures show that residents are four times more likely to be sympathetic to asylum seekers than hostile. This is my experience speaking with mothers and other carers, grandparents, teachers, retired teachers and other school staff in Brent, Camden, Haringey, Newham, Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester. Every teacher I spoke to said itís a lie that asylum seekers are "swamping" schools, and stressed that these children make a positive contribution to the communities they live in and that schools would be poorer without them.
The Bill aims to destroy this community support. Home Secretary David Blunkett told Parliament that he needed the Bill because, "It is virtually impossible to drag a family away from a neighbourhood school. Local papers run local campaigns to stop people being removed." (Hansard, 11 June 2002)
Most communities do not object to asylum seekers. What they object to, which the government and some media then turn against immigrants, is having to compete even further for scarce resources.
Those of us who are low income taxpayers are encouraged to blame immigrants for our difficulties. Yet corruption at every level exempts large corporations from paying the taxes they owe which could pay for education, health, affordable housing and other basic needs.
And thereís no lack of money for wars, which Britain is involved in, and no lack of will to sell arms to dictatorships. But when mothers and children manage to escape wars and repressive governments, they are detained and deported without regard for their safety or the justice of their case. (80% of displaced people worldwide are women and children; 50% of women claiming asylum have been raped.) We didnít use to know about these things, we do now.
If the money that goes into arms and wars went into caring for people and tackling poverty, there would be much less devastation in the world and many less asylum seekers.
There is such a thing as society and all our children and their families are part of it, regardless of where they come from. I urge everyone to write to the House of Lords immediately. The Lords are amending the Bill on 4, 5 & 8 July. Don't let them decide about our children without hearing from those who have their welfare most at heart.
You can contact me at email@example.com or 07904 255145
Briefing & lobby House of Lords
6pm Tuesday 8 October
in the name of mothers, teachers and other carers! No school apartheid!