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Please enjoy the Thought for the Term from Miss Littler

Posted on: 21/04/2023

“..Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child , one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” Malala Yousafzai

Some 19 years ago I worked for some time teaching in an international school in Manila, in the Philippines. The Philippines are incredibly beautiful islands where the landscape is breath-taking and white sand beaches and azure blue seas abound. I love to scuba dive and I absolutely love the sea so I felt very fortunate to work there and be able to spend my weekends diving with manta rays and sharks. An amazing experience.

The school I worked in was located in a very wealthy district of Manila. The weather was generally very warm and we had nice air-conditioned classrooms and a swimming pool. We had great computer facilities and opportunities to go on school trips to Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia. We only played sport with other international schools, my friends were international teachers so I didn’t initially have much of an idea of what life might be like for other people in the local area who may be less fortunate.

My son was very little when I worked in Manila and he had a childminder when we were at work; her name was Margie and we are still good friends. Margie talked to me about her children and their school experience. She explained that the local school, just a few miles from my school, had to operate in shifts as there were too many students to all attend at once. Quite a few students walked a long way to get to school as they didn’t have the financial means to get there by bus or car. That same year, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the local school after my school day finished as the second shift of the day at that school ran until 7pm. It was an incredible experience. The classrooms were very hot, with no luxuries like air conditioning or computer facilities, they were also very busy with 60-70 children crammed onto long benches in each room and the teacher explaining using chalk and a blackboard. More powerfully, the classrooms were overflowing with joy and a willingness to learn in order to have choices for a better future, hence being prepared to come to school in shifts and walk a very long way. The children were, without exception, full of enthusiasm to learn English with me, to sing songs and chant new vocabulary, even though we didn’t have textbooks or computers or many resources. They were friendly, warm, respectful and I loved every minute of my time there, just as I loved my classes at the international school where I worked and just as I get tremendous joy from my role as a headteacher. The differences in facilities may have been stark but the similarities in terms of working with a group of enthusiastic young people, keen to learn and grow, really were much greater.

At a time where the world does not always feel full of positive news, I often think back to those days in Manila and reflect on how much I learnt about the power of education to transform lives and the absolute privilege that learning brings us to enable us to have choices and opportunity. I never thought one school was better than the other, but I did feel a profound sense of injustice at the privilege my classes had compared to the working conditions at the local school where I volunteered. It’s so easy to forget what we have. It isn’t necessarily better but we are fortunate to have freedom and the opportunity to learn, simply at our fingertips. Education truly is the most powerful weapon of all.

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