Teaching Philanthropy?

Last month the Leicester Mercury reported that Leicester South MP, Jon Ashworth, had “dropped into a school to talk to pupils about their work on social issues.” The school in question being Madani High School, in Highfields — where former Liberal Democratic Councillor Hussein Suleman serves as the chairman of their board of governors; Suleman of course being the individual who previously oversaw the privatisation of local schools when he was the Leicester City Council’s Cabinet member for Education.

Having just supported some of the most brutal cuts to public services the Council has ever “had” to make — which include slashing approximately £2 million a year from the homelessness budget — Mr Ashworth had the audacity to pose for a picture surrounded by five school boys all wearing t-shirts with the words “HELP THE HOMELESS” emblazoned across their chests.

In itself this photo-shoot goes to show how utterly detached Labour Party technocrats are from their constituents everyday lives and concerns. It also suggests that Mr Ashworth might think about dropping into Specsavers if he gets the chance.

But Mr Ashworth wasn’t just dropping by Madani High School for a friendly chat; as really, this was yet another promo event to legitimize the dismantling of our educational system.

With Labour’s all-too-willing support for the privatisation of our schools, Mr Ashworth had an important corporate message about philanthropy to pass onto the students. This is because, in keeping with the Conservative’s dreams about a “Big Society,” the Labour Party appear to agree that private philanthropy, not a progressive system of taxation, will be “needed” to finance vital public services in the future.

After speaking to pupils about an international project known as the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative, Mr Ashworth said: “What I really like about this initiative is the way it fosters philanthropic thinking.”

Some of the notable funders of this Youth and Philanthropy Initiative in England include banking giants UBS and Credit Suisse; while another significant corporate benefactor of the initiative is the Capital Shopping Centres Group, which counts one of the UK’s most experienced property advisers, Andrew Huntley, as one of their board members. Interestingly, Mr Huntley is also a board member of the Miller Group — a construction giant whose subsidiary Miller Construction is currently working in profitable partnership with G4S to redevelop many of Leicester’s schools.

One other funder of the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative is a non-profit corporation called the Four Acre Trust, that was set up some years ago by John Bothamley, a well-to-do investor in property development and real estate holdings. Moreover, according to the Four Acre Trust’s web site, they “intend to take over the funding costs” of the Midlands branch of the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative sometime this year.

Indicative of the pro-privatisation agenda being pursued via his benign sounding philanthropic efforts, Mr Bothamley is a member of the prestigious advisory board for a US-based group called Room to Read. A charity formed by a gaggle of ruling class elites which “partners with local communities throughout the developing world to establish schools, libraries, and other educational infrastructure.”

Room to Read was founded by the former head of marketing and business development at Microsoft (John Wood), and other board members include the likes of the former co-head of global investment banking at the Goldman Sachs Group (Scott Kapnick), the former chief operating officer of Barclays Bank (Jerry del Missier), and the present chief executive officer of the Financial Times.

Mr Ashworth may feel the need to drop into local schools to promote corporate propaganda, but will he feel inclined to drop in to lend his support to the strike action at Uplands Junior School next week? Industrial action, that one might add, has been forced upon the hard-working staff, and will involve them taking two days of strike action next week (on Tuesday and Thursday).

Mr Ashworth might consider missing out on his daily morning run to show solidarity with the workers; but most likely this won’t happen. Which means, as per normal, that the Uplands staff will be relying upon the solidarity of parents and other members of the public to come down and join them during their brave strike action to send a powerful message to all politicians apparently intent on destroying our children’s futures.

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