Tuesday, September 12, 2006
School Protest update. posted by Richard SeymourI think it's worth noting that someone finally told The Guardian that some of those students were sent home early so that Blair could make his announcement at Quintin Kynaston school. Now, the school's line in an e-mail to the Morning Star was that "The school had not been closed specifically for the visit. We had a planned half day induction for students followed by staff training in the afternoon. Organisationally this had been in the school calendar since before the summer break." If that is the case, how come dozens of the more obedient students were kept behind to smile and applaud when ordered to? Were they there to participate in the "staff training"?
At any rate, there's a good report on it here, and one thing that it mentions that needs to be highlighted urgently is the treatment of the popular teacher Robin Sivapalan:
The school management suspended Robin Sivapalan, a Unison union activist and teaching assistant at the school, after the demonstration. Unison is defending Robin.
He told Socialist Worker, “The demonstration was brilliant. It gave a chance for disenfranchised Muslim students, and others, to make their voices heard.
“It was a disgrace to invite Tony Blair to a school which has refugees from Iraq and Lebanon.
“We are also opposing Quintin Kynaston becoming a trust school, which is the beginning of the privatisation of education.”
And yet in the statement to the Morning Star, she state that "I personally remain a big supporter of Tony Blair whose policies I value and who I personally feel is a man of integrity and honesty." Now, she is entitled to express an opinion if she likes, since this is protected under human rights legislation that is binding on the UK. But the same goes for Robin Sivapalan.
This is the text of a petition being organised in his support:
On 7 September, Tony Blair and Education Secretary Alan Johnson visited Quintin Kynaston school in north London to announce the first wave of 28 "trust schools" run by business, charitable and religious organisations - of which QK will be one of two in London. They were met by a demonstration, supported by Unison and NUT locally and School Students Against the War, and composed mainly of students from the school, expressing opposition to government policy on trust schools, privatisation and the wars in Iraq and Lebanon.
The initiator of this demonstration, QK classroom assistant Robin Sivapalan, has now been suspended from his job for "insubordination" and "breaching confidentiality" by informing people of Blair’s visit.
The attempt to victimise Robin is an attack on freedom of speech and the right to protest. We are not prepared to see public service trade unionists silenced when they dare to express opposition to government policy.
We the undersigned call on the management of Quintin Kynaston to immediately reinstate Robin Sivapalan and drop all disciplinary charges against him.
He has received the support of union leaders, activists and John McDonnell MP. If you wish to sign it and/or send messages of support, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
This teacher should not be victimised for refusing to be part of Blair's prettified propaganda tableau.
Update - a message of support from George Galloway MP:
"I am appalled at the suspension of Robin Sivapalan and call on the management of Quintin Kynaston School to reinstate him and drop disciplinary charges immediately. It is not a crime to protest against a prime minister and his policies of war and privatisation. As for politicising the school community: the management did that when they invited Tony Blair to the school, which thus became the backdrop for a highly charged party political announcement. It has since become clear, thanks to the Morning Star, that the head teacher is a Blairite who gives every impression of being prepared to make a last stand with her embattled hero. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the victimisation of Robin, a well respected member of the teaching staff and member of the Unison union, is itself politically motivated. Should industrial action become necessary to secure his reinstatement, it will have the full support of myself and my party, Respect."
Respect MP for Bethnal Green & Bow