Winners of award named after race-relations pioneer announced

Saroj Lal was one of the first BAME women to teach in a Scottish primary school in 1970.

Winners of award for Edinburgh schools named after race-relations pioneer Saroj Lal announced STV News

Winners have been announced for the first edition of awards named after Saroj Lal, one of the first minority women to teach in a Scottish primary school.

Saroj Lal was one of the first BAME women to teach in a Scottish primary school when she began her role at South Morningside Primary School in 1970.

Her many successes included being at the forefront of race relations during a period of immense political and social change, delivering anti-racism training and starting the first local authority interpreting and translating service in Edinburgh.

Following her death in 2020, Ms Lal’s achievements in equality, women’s rights, education, and community work have been formally recognised by Edinburgh City Council.

For the awards ceremony, all Edinburgh schools were invited to nominate artwork by students relating to any aspect of equality, in any form.

Saroj Lal Awards 2022 presented to pupils and teachers at the City Chambers in Edinburgh.Greg Macvean

Headteachers were also invited to nominate staff, whose collaborative work around equalities has taken a creative approach and had an impact.

Three award categories were decided upon for students, with a Proud to be Me category for young people’s expression of pride in their heritage or cultural identity; How Prejudice Makes Me Feel for those expressing their feelings about prejudice inflicted on themselves or others; and Artivism, for those using art to express their views on social justice.

Nine schools put in nominations, with 13 pupil/pupil groups and four teachers’ names submitted.

All work was considered by a panel of judges, which included Saroj Lal’s son Vineet Lal, rector of the University of Edinburgh Debora Kayembe, Orkney teacher and winner of the first GTCS Saroj Lal Award Theo Ogbhemhe, and young person Alanah Walker.

Anum Shezad of the Royal High School was crowned Proud to Be Me winner; How Prejudice Makes Me Feel winner was Freya Wilson of the Flora Stevenson Primary School; and a group of four senior pupils at Firhill High School were awarded in the Artivism category, namely Jess Daly, Alisha McLeod, Sara McLeod and Jane Williams.

The staff winner was Rory Murray, also of Firrhill High School, with the special Judges’ Commendation going to Jane O’Thy, of Boroughmuir High School.

Councillor Joan Griffiths, education, children and families convener said: “I am incredibly proud to oversee the inaugural Saroj Lal Award for City of Edinburgh Schools as education, children and families convener.

“These pupils and their achievements are a testament to the rich legacy that Saroj Lal left in her decades of pioneering work in Edinburgh and beyond.

“This award provides an opportunity to reflect not only on the life on a seminal and inspiring woman in Saroj Lal but an opportunity to look ahead to the future with pupils across the capital showing their passion for equality, diversity and social justice.”

Vineet Lal, son of Saroj Lal, said: “I have been blown away by the sheer creativity and depth of thought demonstrated by all those pupils and staff nominated for the inaugural Saroj Lal Award for Schools.

“I have been truly amazed by the variety and originality with which they have embraced the spirit of equality and diversity and captured that spirit so beautifully in their submissions.

“Saroj was a pioneering force in the struggle for justice and fairness for all, and I think she would have been very proud indeed that her trailblazing work in the City of Edinburgh and beyond should inspire new generations to champion those same values.”

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