Teddy row teacher home and jobless

7th December 2007 at 00:00
Primary teacher who got 'more adventure than I bargained for', full of praise for Sudanese colleagues and their 'legendary' support.The experience of "teddy row" primary teacher Gillian Gibbons should not deter teachers going abroad to teach, international recruiters have said.

Edward Clark, head of recruitment at Gabbitas, which sends teachers to British international schools in many Muslim countries, said he had heard "very positive feedback" from teachers he had recently placed in Sudan.

He said Mrs Gibbons, who was sentenced to 15 days in jail after allowing her class to name a teddy bear Muhammed, had shown great professionalism in remaining positive about the country.

"If you are an open-minded person who welcomes the challenge of a different culture and lifestyle, teaching overseas can be a great opportunity," he said.

Mrs Gibbons was granted an official pardon and was flown back to the UK on Tuesday after extensive diplomatic negotiations between Britain and the Sudanese authorities.

Prior to her early release, a mob of extremists brandishing weapons took to the streets of Khartoum in protest at her lenient sentence, calling for her execution.

Despite this, the 54-year-old Liverpudlian said she had been very sorry to leave the country, and encouraged others to go there.

"The Sudanese people I found to be extremely kind and generous and until this happened I only had a good experience. I wouldn't like to put anyone off going to Sudan - in fact I know of a lovely school that needs a new Year 2 teacher."

Mrs Gibbons told reporters she was now "jobless" after leaving the Unity High School in Khartoum, where she described the support she had received as "legendary".

"I'm going to miss my class and my colleagues enormously," she said.

She left Dovecot Primary in Liverpool, where she was deputy head, in the summer to move to Sudan and said she was now seriously looking for another job.

Mr Clark said he would be writing to Mrs Gibbons to offer her help in finding another job elsewhere.

"She made a mistake that no amount of research could prepare you for," he said. "We admire the way she has dealt with it."

Meanwhile, Mrs Gibbons will be spending Christmas with her family, including her children John, 27 and Jessica, 25.

She will have time to reflect on her ordeal that erupted on Monday last week, when Sudanese police arrested her at her school.

A member of admin staff had complained after she had allowed her class to name the classroom teddy bear "Muhammed".

She was taken to a police station in Khartoum, charged and found guilty of insulting Islam, inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs.

She was sentenced to 15 days in jail, although local extremists called for the maximum sentence of 40 lashes, under shariah law.

She was flown back to the UK on Tuesday, where she had an emotional reunion with her family and a chat with the Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Reeling from her eight-day ordeal, she told reporters: "I'm just an ordinary middle-aged primary school teacher, I went out there to have a bit of an adventure, and got a bit more adventure than I bargained for.

"I don't think anyone could have imagined that it would have snowballed like this."

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