Happy endings.

 

A proud group of new MA graduateswith tutors and representatives of the University of Northampton

A proud group of new MA graduates with tutors and representatives of the University of Northampton

All of the stresses of recent days are past. Today was a great day of celebrations with a proud and well deserving group of students receiving their MA degrees in special and inclusive education after two years of dedicated endeavour. I must confess to feeling quite emotional as each student in turn was called to be awarded their degree certificate. Each one has a personal story to tell. Along the way several have encountered challenges which would have thwarted lesser individuals, but this group supported each other throughout the course and demonstrated commitment to achieve that was truly inspirational.

Working with these colleagues over the past two years has been a remarkably rewarding experience. They have produced work of outstanding quality, have debated and discussed issues with intelligence and enthusiasm, and have shown a willingness to deploy their learning in classrooms and to report on their many successes and the obstacles they have faced, in a reflective and professional matter.

The contribution that these teachers are making in their schools is significant. They are supporting children and their colleagues by developing more inclusive approaches to assessment, planning and teaching, and have become real advocates for inclusion, and leaders in the field of education. It will be interesting to watch their careers develop over the coming years as they become increasingly influential and establish themselves as leading professionals.

In offering a vote of thanks at the end of the graduation ceremony, one of our students, Samina, emphasised that whilst graduation signalled the end of a course of study, it was in many ways the beginning of a new phase in the lives of all who were graduating. The challenge ahead lies in applying their learning and taking others along with them on a journey towards more equitable teaching and learning.

Watching these new MA graduates today I felt immensely proud of what they have achieved, and I was pleased that their successes were witnessed not only by their families, but also by many people who have been influential in ensuring the success of the course, and who have taught me so much along the way. I was also filled with a sense of how fortunate I am in working with tutors of the quality of Mary, Jayashree, Johnson and John. It is undoubtedly true to say that working in Bangalore has not been without its challenges and occasional frustrations. But these are far outweighed by the rewards that have come through engagement with a group of committed students and tutors who have been willing to take on new ideas and consider their application in a diverse range of teaching situations.

Today was indeed a day for celebration. I do hope that the excitement of the day carries on for many weeks to come, and that each individual has an opportunity to reflect upon their great accomplishments and the value of the efforts that they have made during the past two years. They take away with them not only those skills that will enable them to develop inclusive classrooms, but also a set of principles for the promotion of a more equitable education system and society. I have every confidence that the children and staff with whom they work will reap many benefits from the work that they have put into their studies. I am both proud and humbled to have had an opportunity to share in a great learning experience and to be associated with such a fine group of individuals.

Many thanks to all involved
Photographs courtesy of Varsha Rajanahally and Time Loop Photography

The rescue mission completed

Fortunately life is seldom as dramatic as that portrayed here by Richard Attenborough and Steve McQueen in the Great Escape. Sometimes it just feels that way!

Fortunately life is seldom as dramatic as that portrayed here by Richard Attenborough and Steve McQueen in the Great Escape. Sometimes it just feels that way!

I am indebted to friends and colleagues who offered messages of support, or in some instances advice on the rescue of those incarcerated gowns held captive by customs and excise at Bangalore airport. Many of the potential solutions tendered came as a result of similar experiences with local bureaucracy, and it was reassuring to be reminded that I should not look at the situation too personally. Other ideas, all kindly meant, ranged from the practical to the wholly bizarre. In particular Sorrell’s suggestion of a commando type raid upon Bangalore airport gaol, largely calling upon the services of Tom Cruise, takes the prize for imagination. This was much as I would have expected from a friend who is an artist and dependent upon creativity to make a living. His ideas did however, have the important effect of diffusing some of the tensions of the past forty eight hours with humour.

I can now inform readers that after much anxiety, and through a great team effort, the academic accoutrements were finally released. On the basis of experience gained I can advise colleagues who may find themselves in a similar situation (hopefully this will not apply to you), that there is a formula, albeit a complex one to secure the release of custom held captives. So here briefly is the approach that ultimately – late last evening in fact – secured the freedom of the gowns. Firstly ensure that you have a strong team working with you to address the challenge – Jayashree and Sunil proved themselves worthy warriors in the cause. Remain persistent, be constantly in the thoughts of the jailers and their superiors. This is best done using local intelligence who are able to call upon influential friends to make frequent phone calls declaring the innocence of the prisoners. At the same time, anticipate frequent journeys to the prison officers’ headquarters armed with pens and as many official papers as you can muster. Expect to have passport and other means of identification photocopied on numerous occasions, be prepared to fill in what will seem like hundreds of forms, often to be informed by other jailers that these are in fact the wrong forms, and repeat the same information to dozens of different officials over the course of several days. As the end game approaches ensure that a small proportion of the original ransom demand is handed over, but only at the point where you have seen the hostages and assured yourself that they remain alive. Finally, have a fast getaway car with engine running at the door of the prison.

The drama concluded today’s graduation can now go ahead. A great cheer could be heard from all concerned. However, a happy ending having been secured, the saga doesn’t quite end here. A bandh has been announced for today in Bangalore. For those of you unfamiliar with the term bandh, I must explain that this is a form of strike which will bring the whole city to a halt for most of the day. In extremis this can become an ugly situation involving a certain amount of violence. Having experienced a couple of these in the past I know that they can normally be avoided, and that the disruption caused can be minimised. However, as ill-luck would have things, one of the focal points of today’s event is immediately adjacent to the hall where the graduation was to be held. This has necessitated finding a change of venue and a complete reordering of events. It seems that life in Bangalore, normally a fairly sedate business, is occasionally hit by a monsoon, and that this latest deluge is falling upon our celebrations.

Undaunted we will continue. Our original plans may have been thwarted, the fates have had their fun, but we will have the last laugh. The gowns are released, a compromise venue found and I have had sufficient sleep to gird my loins to do battle with any further obstacles that may emerge. So be warned, students will be graduating with their University of Northampton MA in Special and Inclusive Education today in Bangalore, come what may. That’s a promise!

 

P.S to my good friend Sorrell I ask – who needs Tom Cruise? Mission impossible? – never!