My visits to Saint Albert’s Primary School in Glasgow

Through the recommendations of Caroline and Beverly, I made my first trip to this unique primary school situated in Pollokshields. I call this school unique because the leaders of this institution have a vision to make the present and the future of the children inclusive, diverse and observant to institutional, systematic and societal injustices. By leaders, I mean Clare Harker the headteacher and her staff and teachers who are trying to help and make the children feel involved in the histories they are leaving behind. I had the opportunity to talk in-depth with Clare about the way she wants the children to be standing up for their rights in the world and using their voice in moments of injustice or rampage. Clare is aware that the world cannot be changed under one day and also aware, there are going to be repercussions. She is determined to confront obstacles and let the children march forward towards light, new awareness and more kindness.

The teachers incorporate critical literacy in the classrooms, make the children think about diversity in communities and nudge them kindly to ask questions. Children are free to question in this space! They are the change makers in their inherent natures and their nature is not suppressed by older generations. An education space I cannot relate to as I come from educational and systematic spaces where obedience would treat me and expressing my individuality is frowned upon. Spaces that always felt wrong to me. Felt tough and suffocating. That’s not what learning should make you feel right? What are your comments on a kind and accepting education system? As for me, I feel deeply let down by my headteachers, teachers, examination patterns, isolating structures and peer circles. Going back to Beverly and her insights on this project, through her enthusiasm and optimistic hopes from Clare in this project, I am truly happy to see it come alive!

Clare has been generous enough to donate two amazing lovely and revolting books co-produced, co-written and imagined by the futuristic minds of young children of Saint Albert’s through the collaboration with visionary writers and illustrators who have made it possible for the children to go from names James and Emma to Ismail and Junaid. I had another beautiful series of conversations with Yasmin Hanif who is currently collaborating with the children in coming up with more creative and inclusive stories. Yasmin is a poet, writer and educator, she specialises in children’s literature. I sat during a part of her storytelling and writing workshop on World Book Day on 2 March 2023 and I saw the strokes of sunshine, moonlight and welcoming demeanour in the way she narrated the stories and asked the children to pitch questions and alternate endings. One of her blogs on her work and vision for the future is published through Scottish BPOC Writer’s Network online. Yasmin is a writer-in-residence at Saint Albert’s and has had published 8 stories with the children as part of ‘We Can Be Heroes’ project of the school. The project aims at letting every ordinary or seemingly regular human to realise that they too, can and already are the heroes of their story.

Clare’s words:

For me this (activism) is literally just doing something, anything, in the face of unfairness, injustice etc. Taking an active part in change and promoting change to, very simply, make things better for others and for self. Activism can also be aspirational in that the ultimate target may never be reached. Change can come from the smallest of gestures and all you can do is hold your neighbour’s hand.

One of the many projects that we take on is the book project where children and parents have worked with writers to co-author books that have main characters who look like them. They are underrepresented in all fiction and when they are represented this is usually tokenistic, stereotypical and designed to perpetuate myths around race. The idea was very simple – children did not see themselves as characters or heroes in their own stories. The outcomes are pride, visibility and a clearer path towards an anti-racist curriculum.

I want all of our staff and children to be activists throughout their lives. To understand that change can happen and that one of their purposes should be to make things better for themselves and others. I hope I can continue to have the courage to challenge norms and accepted ways of working. I hope that activism continues to be a part of our core curriculum.

Our passionate librarian Wendy Kirk has looked at the children’s books and soon it will be part of our library collections!

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