I’m not spooked by the latest attempts by the AGE to make me fear public education. I could bring up snarky examples of private school “values” again, or I could point out that the AGE is becoming quite attached to the acres of advertorials that the private schools buy in their education section (bias? Never!). But what the hell. I don’t need to. I’m proud, happy, and just a bit teary.
In the same newspaper on Tuesday, there was an article on Ali Alsaai and his family, who, as refugees on the SIEV-4, were the subject of one of Howard’s greatest porkies – the Children Overboard story.
I’ll include the whole story below, but here’s the part about Alsaai’s daughter Hawraa, who goes to Footscray City College– my daughter’s school.
And it was during a year in detention at Maribrynong that Hawraa, now 16, and Banin, 8, began attending school at Footscray.
Peter Noss, then a year 8 co-ordinator at Footscray City College, was assigned the task of making Hawraa’s transition as smooth as possible. One of his first acts was to organise a “whip around” of the staff to help set the family up in their modest unit.
“I was struck immediately by how bright and intelligent she was,” Noss recalls. “I just felt so sorry for their predicament.
“I didn’t know anything about detention centres and I’d like to think I’d be the same with any kid who needed a bit of a bunk up.”
(Did I mention this is my daughter’s school?!)
Towards the end of that first year, Noss recalls waiting outside the school with Hawraa, who was to go to the Royal Children’s Hospital for a check-up. “We are waiting out for the car to pick her up and she says, ‘Here they come!’ It’s a van from the detention centre with a light on the top, blacked out windows, bars on the windows, and I thought, ‘What’s going on?’
“There were two people in the front of the van. One’s got out, undone the big padlock on the side of the door and slid the door back and here is the rest of the family, sitting inside this darkened van.
“We shake hands. ‘Hello.’ ‘Hello.’ ‘See you soon.’ Hawraa gets in. ‘Bye.’ Close the door and a huge big padlock is put on the door. Well, that did it for me. I just broke up.”
The other episode that mystified Noss was when Hawraa came to school one day and explained that she was returning to PNG because, under the Pacific Solution, boat people seeking refugee status have to be processed offshore.
“So they’ve sent the family, a nurse, a guard and God knows what else, gone up there, stayed in a hotel, which was fantastic for the family, and the next day they’ve said: ‘We’ve granted you a temporary protection visa. You can go anywhere in Australia.’
“Hawraa said, ‘I want to go back to Footscray because my friends are at school there’. That’s why they’re back at Footscray.”
Now in year 10, Noss says Hawraa continues to excel at school and is more than capable of realising her ambition to become a doctor. Banin, called “Banana” by her classmates, wants to be a teacher.
Peter Noss, you are a legend. You bring a lump to my throat. (I think I might have mentioned this is my daughter’s government school?) I can’t think of anyone who would teach better “values” to my child.
I wonder what school Peter Reith went to?