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Anna Rowlands: ‘Your children will find a warm welcome in our schools’

07 July on Blog   Tags: , ,
The Welcome Committee is a year-long blog series hosted by MRCF that invites community leaders, activists, politicians, entrepreneurs, authors, journalists, artists, and others to help us have a different, more positive conversation about migration by answering a simple question:
 

 

What would you tell a recent migrant or refugee to the UK to welcome them to our country?

 

Over the many centuries Britain has been defined by the endless comings and goings of boats – and now ships, trains and planes – in and out from its shores.  As you arrive in Britain you are helping us to write a new page in the long history of our nation. As you bring your own rich stories and cultures to our mix, you are welcome.  When I travelled to work in exuberant, bustling Nigeria recently I was amazed at how often complete strangers would cross the street to say: ‘you are welcome’. Even as I was leaving a place people would shout after me ‘you are welcome’. This made me smile as I thought of just how reserved British people are – we don’t tend to shout greetings of welcome across the street.  I wondered what a Nigerian would make of arriving in UK? Writing this message to you is my way of sharing that Nigerian welcome in a British way!

And I know why this welcome matters. In 1930’s my own grandparents came to Manchester as economic migrants from Ireland, they came with a different religious background and with their own language and customs, in search of work. They worked in domestic service, in the factories and in manual labour.  They had little formal education themselves but were devoted to the education of their own children and were immensely proud that their children became teachers, nurses and businesswomen.  I have spent my life so far working in the education system that they so valued – schools and universities. British education is something to be proud of and your children will find a warm welcome in our schools. My son’s school has children who speak over 40 different languages; his closest friends are Malaysian, Korean, French, Egyptian and Sri Lankan and each year they celebrate this diversity with food and cultures shared.

Although we now live in Cambridge, we often spend a Saturday enjoying the delights of London and here are a few tips for the things we enjoy doing as a family: most of the London museums are free entry and our favourite is the British Museum (and if we’ve a little money for coffee and cake in our pockets a little visit to the London Review Bookshop Café on Bury Street opposite for the best cake!), walking in the many green spaces across London parks won’t cost you a penny either – you can see all the big historic sites and plan which you’d like to visit – feed the ducks in St James’ park and enjoy the views towards Westminster and Buckingham Palace, through Hyde Park by the Serpentine down towards Kensington Palace gardens ending up at the fabulous Royal Albert Hall.

These spaces are now your spaces; this page of British history is now your page of British history. What will you write on it?

Dr Anna Rowlands is Director of Studies at a small Catholic Institute affiliated to the University of Cambridge (Margaret Beaufort Institute for Theology) and Theologian in Residence with Citizens UK. She is currently researching Christian contributions to the ethics of migration.

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Comments
  • Jasmina Dimitrijevic
    3 years ago - Reply

    It was very inspiring to read Anna Rowland’s Blog. Anna shares very important issues with us on integration into the UK society and how different cultures come together. And where better to reflect on that then through watching children play and socialise together. Parents from different communities should be encouraged to speak about issues of settling in the UK society, finding solutions to problems, celebrating positive achievements of their children and how important is to respect and value each other’s culture. Only than, we can hope to achieve coherent and functional society. Thank you Anna

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