Concerns for Briton held over teddy row in Sudan

30th November 2007 at 00:00
Former colleagues are concerned for the British teacher who was arrested for allowing a class teddy bear to be named Muhammed.

Gillian Gibbons, 54, who was teaching primary children in Sudan, was imprisoned in Khartoum on Sunday on suspicion of insulting the Prophet. As The TES went to press, she was charged with inciting racial hatred. She could face 40 lashes, a large fine or jail were she to be convicted.

Children in her class at the independent Unity High School had voted for the name of the bear, which a female pupil brought in.

Pupils took it in turns to take the bear home each weekend to record what they did with it in a diary - a project similar to the "Barnaby Bear" scheme in the UK.

But Ms Gibbons was arrested after officials from Sudan's education ministry visited the school. Ms Gibbons had gone to Sudan after her marriage to Peter Gibbons, a headteacher, broke up.

Until the summer she was deputy head at Dovecot Primary in Liverpool. Gillian Jones, its headteacher, said: "We are all naturally shocked and extremely concerned. Gillian is a very talented and able teacher and she was extremely popular with the pupils at this school.

"We are absolutely certain that there is no way that she will have done anything to intentionally insult any religion."

Gill Langworthy, another former colleague at Garston Primary School in Liverpool, has been in email contact with her each week since July. "Last week she sent one with pictures of her sitting on a camel and a beach, loving it," she said. "Thinking about her sitting in the prison cell is horrible."

The Sudanese school has been forced to close to protect staff and property from attacks by hardliners.

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