Tears for deported Khulan

26th March 2004 at 00:00
One day earlier this month we received a telephone call informing us that Khulan Otgonbaatar, one of our Year 2 children had been deported to Mongolia, along with her parents and two-year-old brother.

This is the first time that our school has been affected in this way and we cannot let it go unmarked as though it was a normal, routine and acceptable thing to happen.

Normally when a child leaves our school they are given a formal goodbye and a leaving certificate to show that we care for them and to wish them well.

There was no chance to do that for Khulan.

Khulan is a child who presented us with many challenges, some of which we found hard to meet. She was epileptic. She had a developmental age well below her peers. Teachers and teaching assistants worked very hard to make her part of the school community.

She loomed very large in our concerns and we feel diminished by her departure. We are concerned that her needs will be very difficult to meet in Mongolia and her prospects for any kind of decent life are bleak.

At a time when inclusion is one of the key ideas in education it is disturbing to have to explain to children that one of their classmates has had to leave the school and the country, not because they wanted to but because someone in government had decided that their family were not fit and proper people to live among us. This sends a message to all the children that it is morally acceptable to differentiate amongst people in this way.

In the guidelines on citizenship there is no mention of how to explain to seven-year-olds that the Government thinks that it is morally right for a child with disabilities to be put on a plane by officers of the state and sent thousands of miles away so that we don't have to deal with her problems. A child who buys into this message is beginning to accept that living in a wealthy country like this is not the basis of an obligation to aid the majority of the world who do not share our privileges, but something to be jealously guarded. We feel that this is not compatible with the kind of people we all need to be in the next century.

We intend to mark Khulan's departure with a more regular commitment to education about refugee issues so that some good may come of this sad event.

21 teachers and teaching assistants Hungerford primary school Hungerford Road Holloway, London N7

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