Black Lives Matter Special issue of Saturday Bulletin
Message from Magnus Bashaarat, Head of Bedales
The global reaction to the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police has been unprecedented. Nobody should respond with indifference to what we witnessed on 25 May. Because of the power of social media, a groundswell of opinion has quickly developed for the need for radical social change. The response to George Floyd’s death has rightly transcended national boundaries and encouraged us all to reflect on the racial injustice which stubbornly persists in the western world.
I recently received an open letter from three Old Bedalians, signed too by over 500 other members of the community, challenging the school to look at issues of racism in the taught curriculum and wider school culture. I am glad we are being challenged in this way. Listening to and learning from the experiences of students – past and present - will continue to be invaluable in helping us shape the future curriculum, and ensuring our response at Bedales is one that is sustained and meaningful.
Unconscious bias permeates all western institutions, including schools, and we should not underestimate the scale or complexity of the problem. We will be taking the opportunity of the current upsurge in global protest to review our approach, within the context of our progressively liberal DNA and the sort of school we want to be.
The MS Batory (pictured) was a ship with a proud and long service history. One of the voyages it made in 1956 was from Karachi to Southampton, and amongst its passenger list was my father, uncle and aunt, coming to start a new life in the UK, escaping the internecine violence of Pakistan. After going to school in Lewisham my father shortened his name from Bashaaratullah, to Bashaarat, to make it look less foreign; my uncle anglicised his name completely.
As an English teacher I describe and interrogate colonial and post-colonial narratives in novels by Chinua Achebe, poems by Imtiaz Dharker and Daljit Nagra, and plays by Meera Syal, because I am part of them. The British Partition of India indirectly led to me sitting at a desk at Bedales in Hampshire, UK, rather than Aitchison College, Lahore, Pakistan, for example, whose foundation year is pretty close to Bedales’, albeit from diametrically opposed educational principles.
We have dedicated this week’s Saturday Bulletin to these important issues of race, racism, and marginalisation, and include the open letter and my response, and also set out some of the ways Bedales is currently tackling issues surrounding racism and diversity more broadly in our educational context, and our future plans.
I am grateful to Abi Wharton, our Head of Global Awareness, for agreeing to lead a Diversity Working Group which will be the vehicle for steering discussions and gathering the wide range of perspectives across our community and beyond, and helping us all to drive the necessary change.
I hope you find this bulletin to be both informative and also offering some hope for the creation of a society that we all desire – one that is just and fair for every person.