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So many barriers to the true vocation

More ethnic role models are needed but, as Nadene Ghouri found out, there are reasons why so few come forward

"They said to me, 'What the hell do you want to do that for? You'll never make any money'. They couldn't see my point of view, they just saw me leaving a well-paid job to do 'women's work'."

Chander Rajput, 36, recalls his family's reaction to the news that he was quitting his job in computers to train as a primary school teacher.

Chander had always wanted to teach, but was deterred at 21 because he felt under pressure "to make money and get a status job. At that age I didn't have the guts to stand up for myself".

He added: "Young Asians are expected to be well qualified and get well-paid jobs. Teaching just doesn't fall into that category."

Renuka Patel, 21, agreed: "There's zero respect for this job in my community. They think I'm going to spend my days looking after children and playing games all day. No one sees this as a true profession."

Jenifer Campbell believes she has a vocation to teach. However, it was only recently, in her thirties and with her own three children at school, that she found the confidence to train.

She said: "At school it was expected the black girls wouldn't do much with their lives, except get married. Nobody ever suggested to me I was good enough to teach."

Chander, Renuka and Jenifer see themselves as role models, and are committed to working in inner-city multicultural schools. Jenifer said: "You can only give 100 per cent if you feel comfortable. And I'd feel very uncomfortable going to work every dayin a place where there weren't other black teachers.

"We've done teaching practice in some schools and although people may not be racist to your face, you certainly pick up on the undercurrent and silences as you walk into the staffroom. Besides, it stands to reason I'm going to be a lot more use in a school with a high number of black pupils."

Jenifer said: "I know white students who absolutely wouldn't want to teach in inner cities because of the politics. One did his practice in a multi-racial school and said he felt he was 'walking on glass' the whole time in case he said the wrong thing by accident. It's a minefield whichever way you look at it, isn't it?"

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