Iapplaud Sir Lenny Henry for speaking out about education, for saying that access to it is not an “accident of birth”.
In his first speech as Birmingham City University’s new chancellor, Sir Lenny talked about how he grew up believing education was “not intended for the likes of me”.
He only developed the confidence to return to education much later, gaining his first degree at the age of 46 and going on to reclaim a lot of his lost years, becoming a writer and thinker as well as a famous face and comedian.
I wish we all had the benefit of hindsight. I know for one thing I would have worked so much harder at school than I did.
I would have chosen to sit at the front of the class instead of my usual back desk choice; I would have paid attention to my teachers, not disrupted their lessons (if by any chance you’re reading this, Mr Giles, I am so sorry); I would have lapped up information like a cat at a milk dish, studied instead of doing anything other than and worked so damned hard I would have won a Pulitzer at the age of 12.
I think of all the time we had – years and years – just to soak up all the knowledge of the world and how I couldn’t care less because the world was me and my gang and that’s all we needed to know.
It’s easy to look back knowing what we know today, understanding the importance of a good education.
Master A is coming up for his ninth birthday. He’s still very young and, hopefully, has a long way to travel through the education system.
However, I struggle because right now he has absolutely no interest in learning and is showing no sign of inquisitiveness. I have spoken with his school about ways to engage him in learning and all they’ve come back with is “it’s a boy thing” and I simply have to sit tight until he’s ready.
They’ve said this for the past few years. What if he’s never ready?
How do you tell a child that although these may not necessarily be the best days of his life they do have the power to shape and influence the future? That what interests us now, what sparks our enthusiasm, our imagination, can lead us down a path of life-long fulfilment.
As Sir Lenny says education is a right. However, the passion for learning is a gift.