I have just seen this article on the BBC TV News, what a wonderful, inspiring tale.
Sammy Gitau, living on a rubbish tip in Nairobi, found a Manchester University prospectus. Today, Sammy graduated with an MSc, a long far cry from his drug dealing days in Kenya following the murder of his father.
By chance, I heard a Radio 4 article this morning that suggested bright children from working class families generally fail to increase their standing, yet less intelligent public schooled children advance. The article can be read here
I grew up in a rough council estate area of South Birmingham. The school I attended was little more than a toilet bowl for the passing of kids to borstal. Teachers were disinterested and largely contemptuous of the kids they taught. One of my teachers didn't even turn up for 9 months of lessons just prior to taking my O levels. I recall distinctly having to speak to the Headteacher about the fact that we were sitting, week after week, without a teacher whiling away the two hour period. He was clueless.
I remember too, with less than fond memories the following discussion with our careers teacher
Teacher: So what do you want to do when you leave school?
me: I'm really interested in law
Teacher: (mock laughter) Well, pupils from this school don't go into law, but I can give you a leaflet about the car factory; Rover. (shoves a pamphlet about the factory my way)
me: (shoving the leaflet back) Really? Well I'm not, I want to go into law
Teacher: (shoving leaflet back) Well, call the number on the back of the form. You could work your way into management.....
It's odd to recall the low expectation that the teachers had. I distinctly remember my old maths teacher; Mrs Bradburn telling me I would only ever "scrape by". She was a vile woman with breath that smelt of cheap coffee and plaque with a tangle of frizzy unkempt hair. She would often get angry when the bristles on her legs would pierce her 40 denier american tan tights.
I couldn't complete my A levels, mum and dad said I would need to fund myself - great news after a years study. My dream of university faded and I fell into law, quite by chance right at the bottom, making tea and running errands. 12 long years of part time study followed. 8 years at the start, and the next 4 to finish in June of the new year.
I still shake my head in disbelief at some of the posh public school boy twits that populate law, though, I'm pleased to say that demographic is changing, and the firm I work with have some great characters.
I'm glad there are Sammy Gitau's out there as role models to inspire 'normal' kids. It's atrocious in this day and age to see the class system still alive and kicking.