Brown with Malala, schoolchildren in Sunderland protest closing of their libraries
As I sit watching a gloating former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown in Edinburgh at the reunion of Malala Yousafzai and schoolfriends, Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan (injured in Taliban attack last year) I note he appears to have come down with ostrich syndrome once again. As UN envoy for global education why isn’t Brown highlighting and standing with the many children deprived of a wonderful institution as parents protest the closing down of Britain’s public libraries (200 in 2012).
It is all very well to support Malala’s message of “one child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world” but how come Brown is so inactive regarding some of our best loved resources, an educational lifeline for many schoolchildren and their community. It is not enough to condemn, that alone will not stop the closures. With Malala at his side, one might assume all is rosy with Britain’s educational system, there is certainly little from Brown in public to highlight that pupils are being deprived of key learning facilities. Before he starts on Pakistan, the UN envoy has plenty to sort out here.
Neil Gaiman (author of Coraline and the Graveyard Book) spoke of the impact on Britain’s youth during the second annual Reading Agency lecture on 14th October at the Barbican centre in London. Gaiman highlighted the shocking closure of 9 out of 20 libraries in Sunderland, north- east England, drawing attention to the direct links between children’s literacy levels and rising prison populations stating:-
“the consequences of shutting down health services is messy—people die and there is blood. The closure of libraries is insidious. We are inflicting it on our children . . . It’s like stopping vaccinations”
Author Neil Gaiman on importance of libraries, children trying to save libraries in Moray, Scotland
While Brown helps to focus the country on one schoolgirl and prides himself on his “for profit” school agenda elsewhere in the world, who is going to look out for the children of Sunderland and ensure that their learning is not affected by drastic financial cuts and closures. In an earlier article on Malala, I highlighted Brown’s double standard on gender justice, now we see it with education. Governments have a seemingly ever full purse for funding war and drone strikes yet can’t afford to maintain libraries for our youth.
As the number of food banks increase with poor families struggling to pay the ludicrous bedroom tax, buying children’s books is an added expense and it is all the more important that our libraries remain open as a resource for all. Hands Off Sunderland Libraries, protestor, Klaire Ferry pointed out to local councillors, “we don’t think you are taking into consideration what these buildings are about, which is social unity, especially in deprived areas.”
Save the Children charity explains,
“right now, in this country, children are going to school hungry because they don’t get a proper breakfast. They go through winter without a warm coat or a decent pair of shoes. Some even have to sleep on a damp mattress on the floor because they don’t have their own bed”
Save The Children, poverty in Britain, what future without public libraries?
While Brown is up in Edinburgh promoting the Malala tour and attending the opening of the revamped library in his own Kirkcaldy constituency, he might care to check on the schoolchildren served by Moray Council, closing 7 of its 15 libraries. Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop expressed her disappointment and dismay only this week in a letter to the council arguing,
“There has been widespread and well-founded concern for the people of Moray around the closure of these libraries, with implications for the community as a whole and, as reported, especially for disadvantaged members of the community. I am very concerned that Moray Council cannot see the value in continuing to provide library services in these rural areas”
The story is throughout Britain, north, south, east and west. Considering Brown’s admittance to dabbling in “petty crime” as a child to access books from his local library and the importance they played in his life, what is his man actually doing to protect Britain’s libraries http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/books/gordon-brown-reveals-petty-criminal-past-1-2959564
Meanwhile many are asking, who are the Public Relations company behind the Malala “celebrity schoolgirl” phenomenon, doing such a fantastic job of distracting the public away from the problems facing many schoolchildren in Britain today. Edelman PR started off in the US in 1952 and later established a branch in London, followed by a chain of other offices worldwide.
Two interesting facts stood out for me…
The founder of the world’s largest independent PR company was Daniel Edelman, recently deceased. His obituary in January 2013 revealed that Daniel Edelman had been drafted into the US army and “was assigned to the 5th Mobile Radio Broadcasting Company, a psychological warfare unit. His job was to analyze German propaganda, providing information that was used by the Allies to counter with messages of their own.”
In March 2006, Daniel Edelman’s son Richard, also working for the company was alleged to have supplied information to “friendly bloggers” about his client Walmart. The bloggers failed to disclose the source of their information. In October 2006, Richard Edelman was forced to apologize after an interview on TV where it was revealed that a blog commissioned by Working families for Walmart was actually written by “fake people” writers paid by Edelman’s company. Not a very ethical practice and one smacking of propaganda and spin.
Those wanting interviews with Malala must now go through Edelman. They have an impressive network of global contacts with Richard Edelman associated with the Atlantic Council and director of the Jerusalem Foundation… They are no doubt very well placed to assist the schoolgirl through the doors of the White House and Buckingham Palace. With a multitude of offices including several in India and affiliates in Tel Aviv, the Malala story will no doubt continue to be headline news for some time to come.
Richard Edelman has a great interest in the power of social media in influencing opinion. One wonders what exactly is their agenda for propelling Malala so strongly into the limelight. One of Edelman’s main messages presented in 2012 to leaders in world governments and chief executives, was that based on a survey by his company, the public do not trust governments and business executives anymore. True indeed, however only time will tell how the public feels with regard to trusting the motives of the PR company behind Malala, arguably the world’s most famous schoolgirl!
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.