Romania Subway Kids
Vic's Web Site
This is the email I received from Vic
Was unable to get down to TOADS because, at that
moment, I was 25 ft UNDER the streets of Bucharest with a group
of street children. A long story. I was in Romania to do some
video filming for a Church project in Constanta on the Blaclk
Sea. During research, I stumbled upon some images by an
American ( Kyle Cassidy) [ search for street kids + romania
had been out in Bucharest. He pointed me at a Texas couple (
Sue and Ron Bates) who sold up everything to do and live in
Romania to work with street children. (
They now care for almost 90 Romanian girls in two 'care homes'.
and also take food, money and medicines to a group of street
kids living in the sewers under the parking lot of McDonalds in
With a certain amount of 'bottle', I emailed Ron
and Sue and arranged to see them when returning from Constanta
to Bucharest. On the Saturday evening, we went to take food to
the kids in the subway. What an experieince !!.
There's much more to tell if you are interested,
or think you might be able to help in some way,
[If anyone would like to help Vic by sending
money you can email him from
here - Ron]
The Rat Race
boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist
complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his
fish and asked how long it took him to catch them. "Not very
long," answered the Mexican. "But then, why didn't you stay out
longer and catch more?" asked the American. The Mexican explained
that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of
his family. The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest
of your time?" "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my
children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go
into the village to see my friends,
have a few drinks, play the guitar,
and sing a few songs . . .I have a full life."
The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can
help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can
then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you
can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will
bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until
you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish
to a middle man, you can negotiate directly with the processing
plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this
little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New
York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise."
"How long would that take?" asked the
Mexican? "Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the
American. "And after that?" "Afterwards? That's when it gets
really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your
business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make
"Millions? Really? And after that?"
"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near
the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish,
take a siesta, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your
It wasnít always that wonderful e.g.The Head
of my Junior School, Hobbs Hill Wood, was sacked Ė something
to do with small boys.
There was bullying, remember Goodyear?
Discipline Ė not so hot. I have consistently
avoided teaching after I saw the way we treated some of the
Some parents did back their children in
unwarranted antagonism towards the school. My Mum was a
secretary there so I might know a bit more than I ought. On
balance I think we were very lucky going to a new school in
a new town, and I mostly enjoyed it. It attracted a good
crop of teachers with a modern outlook (not all middle class
role models, there were a range of backgrounds). I have
rarely met anyone of around my age who even went to a mixed
school. Traditional established schools, from what I gather,
could resort to sadistic punishment and unbelievable
pettiness. My brother attended Corner Hall boys school for a
little while, which was only concerned to churn out factory
fodder. His subsequent move to a comprehensive in Devon
paved the way to university and beyond.
Not necessarily so bad.
children attended a city centre comprehensive (OK its
Cambridge but that doesnít account for everything). One did
extremely well, and the other more than respectably. Quote
ďIt was a very nice place where everyone knew who you were
and cared what you did, academic or notĒ. Neither of them
has ever been hit by a teacher. If Iíve done my job properly
they donít need the threat of that to inform their behavior,
and if I havenít then hitting wonít help.
I wonder if you are confusing respect with
the traditional working class deference towards the only
educated people we were ever likely to meet i.e. the teacher
and the doctor, and was this a good thing? I donít think so.
Now that lots of people are educated to a similar standard
that inevitably has to change, or what was the point of
educating us? I still took care to support the teachers as
the operating professionals on the case, including if they
chose to go on strike. However there were a very few
occasions when I did question and challenge. Children have a
very keen sense of justice and that needs supporting too.
Yes teachers need respect. So do children and
lots of other people.
Having seen two children through their education and now
helping with two grandsons I can not help but make
comparisons to my own education. In some cases my
family attended the same school as my wife or I and
comparisons then become unavoidable. We currently
suffer a sever teacher shortage and it is predicted to
I will leave the detailed
analysis to the professionals and the politicians but would
like to make some observations.
In my day teachers were respected both by their pupils and
by society in general. Pupils may not have respected
every individual teacher on a personal basis but there was
certainly respect for the position. The same may also
be said I suppose for policemen (or should I say
policepersons?) How might one characterise teachers
back in our days at AGS? They looked professional,
acted professionally and received from the community the
status and respect afforded to 'professionals'. As
perceived by me, a working class pupil, they were generally
smart and conventional in appearance, wore suits and ties,
read broadsheets not tabloids, did not swear, had "good
manners", were "cultured", were intelligent and university
educated. They often owned their own houses or
flats, had a car and took foreign holidays. They were
honest, hard working and taught as a vocation. I can
not remember one incident of industrial action. To my
working class parents they appeared similarly. They
were middle class role models. My parents would have
been very proud if their child had become a teacher.
They would have boasted of it to their family and friends.
In our community teachers were given priority by the council
for housing. They could access what was then
known as 'higher income houses" I suppose this also
meant that in the scale of things their income was in the
'well above average' bracket.
There was no way on earth that my parents would have
sided with me against 'a teacher'. My parents were
100% supportive to the teachers on matters of discipline.
If I had received a clip around the ear or six of the best
at school it was unlikely I would have even told my parents.
An admission of such a thing would almost certainly have
resulted in further punishment from my parents on the basis
that the teacher must have been right and I must have been
in the wrong. It is more likely that my parents would
have written to the teacher appologising for my behavior
than to challenge the school on why I was punished.
Before my place at grammar school, was confirmed my
parents were asked to sign an undertaking to the school that
they would keep me there until the age of 16 (the leaving
age was at that time 15) and that they accepted the rules
and regulations of the school and would support and abide by
them. It was made very clear to us, pupils and
parents, that we were at the school to learn. We were
there to pass G.C.E. examinations. The school had the
sanction of expelling pupils who either did not behave or
were not likely to achieve passes at GCE. I recall a
fellow pupil who was none to bright leaving the school in
the second form. It was suggested to his parents that
he might be better suited to another school where the
academic expectations were not as intense. He left.
I remember another boy whose behavior was very disruptive
both to the teachers and to the pupils. He left.
I remember a girl in the fourth form who became pregnant.
A disciplined atmosphere existed. We stood up when
a teacher entered the class and if we had any sense shut up
as well. We opened doors for elders, teachers and
girls. We let adults on the bus before us. We
walked on the right hand side of stairs and corridors.
We addressed all teachers respectfully. We did our
homework and handed it in on time. When punished we
took it 'on the chin' - complaint was futile. We
avoided slouching and took our hands out of our pockets at
the first sight of a teacher. We swore at our peril.
We suffered supervision at the meal table and were not
permitted to be bad mannered.
Our school environment was clean, well organised and
modern. We were safe there with teachers, prefects and
'older boys' mitigating bullying, violence and vandalism.
Can you believe that we would leave our personal belongings
in our desk in our form rooms and that they were still there
when we returned?
Teachers today are underpaid relative to when we were at
school. They have lost their privileged
position/status in our community. They do not receive
the backing of parents. Discipline is no longer
politically correct. Good manners are old fashioned.
They no longer get the support on good housing at low cost.
They strike. They retire early through ill health on
full pension. They have declining attendance
records with vastly higher absenteeism than in the private
They can not beat pupils, need permission to hold
detentions, and apparently can almost never expel disruptive
pupils. As a result of continuing political dogma they
are prevented from encouraging 'the pursuit of excellence'
and have to struggle with large classes of multi-ability
students. There is a possible escape from the decline.
A private education, if you can afford it or a move of home
to the catchment area of a traditional middle class
ex-grammar school. Finally, one has to bring into
question the quality of leadership or management at schools
I, for one, do not blame young people from avoiding
teaching as a career for all the above reasons. Our
current problem is also exaggerated by a very high leaving
rate within the profession. We have to throw money at
the problem. I can see no solution to the general
decline in standards of discipline. It is symptomatic
of our declining standards in society in general.