Well, we come to the international break and who would have thought that we would be level on points with Manchester United? And who would have thought that we would have won two away games by the first week of October? The first of those two away wins, at Aston Villa, brings back memories from almost exactly 20 years ago….
I remember the incident well even though it was back in 1993. On an autumn Saturday afternoon, under grey Tyneside skies, I was sitting at the Gateshead International Stadium with a work colleague, whom I had persuaded, with the help of a free ticket to come and watch Gateshead United. Newcastle were away to Aston Villa on the same afternoon. My work colleague had brought his son along and one of them had a radio with them and so we were able to listen out for scores from Villa Park. Early in the game it was reported that we were the hungrier of the two teams in Birmingham that autumn afternoon and sure enough we went on to win the game. It was perhaps the first real indication that we would not only survive in the Premier League but prosper, eventually finishing fourth. Sadly I have to confess that I can’t remember the outcome of the Gateshead United game.
Perhaps it was that ‘hunger for success’, that enabled Keegan’s Newcastle United teams to do so well. There can be little doubt that players and teams who really want to win will usually prevail over players and teams of similar ability, but who perhaps are just not as motivated. In football there is little doubt that being ‘hungry’ is a good thing. Where it doesn’t help to bring success is in the classroom.
It was therefore very alarming to read of the Daily Mirror’s survey, which came out in the middle of the recent Tory Party conference. According to the Daily Mirror poll,
“more than 85% of teachers quizzed in the survey said there has been an increase in the number of pupils turning up to school in the past two years without having eaten breakfast. And they revealed children are arriving dirty, in uniforms that do not fit and without warm clothes in winter. Some are so famished they have resorted to stealing food off others, eating a week’s supply of break-time fruit on a Monday and nodding off from lack of nourishment.”
This is the reality of Cameron and Osborne’s Britain today. Whilst the rich get richer, there is, as ever, no trickle down effect. The poor are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. There is no recovery for millions of British people. It gives lie to the idea that things are now getting better for the British people under Cameron and Osborne’s austerity policies. It also makes nonsense of any claims that the Tories care about the education of all British children.
This is the reality of Britain under this government. For millions of adults and children, it is nothing more than a struggle, with the constant worry of where the next meal is going to come from, whilst dealing with escalating energy bills and other household expenditure.
There is the constant stress, the inability to plan ahead, the lack of holidays. It is hard enough for adults to cope with this – and how many mothers (and fathers) in Britain are going without meals, so that their children can eat – but what is it doing for the children involved?
We want children to be able to dream and to aspire to what they could be when they are older, but how is that possible when life is such a struggle for their families? If they grow up in that situation, how can they dream of anything else? Yes, it is possible that they can be inspired or motivated by something at school or somewhere else outside of the family situation and it is certainly true that parents in poorer households can be just as caring and encouraging as any others. But how much harder must it be to inspire a child, when they are going without meals? How much harder must it be to help them see that there can be a bright future for them, when they are growing up in such difficult circumstances?
How much harder is it for a child to concentrate at school against the background of financial stress at home? How much harder when the smallest financial molehill can become the biggest fiscal mountain, a huge crisis.
How much harder is it to persuade a child from a poorer background that it is worth sticking in at school, when the only jobs they see adults around them as having are those with such low wages and consist of working at a call centre or on a zero-hour contract with some dubious employer? Even more so, how much harder is it to persuade a young person, who isn’t from a wealthy background to go to university, with all the debt involved?
Now, I am sure that there will be some reading this who will be thinking, yes, but, the real problem comes down to dysfunctional families, not being able to look after their children properly due to poor organisation and a general lack of responsibility. I have little doubt that there are families who should have the resources to look after their children adequately but lack the werewithal to do so. These cases are those which the tabloids often highlight as if they represent a much higher number. However, I would also argue that the main reason for such an appallingly high number of children going to school hungry is the government’s austerity policies.
The simple fact is that with wages depressed for five long years now and deeper and deeper benefit cuts coming to effect, more and more families really are finding it impossible to make ends meet. And what hope are these millions of families given by the Chancellor? None… They then fall as easy prey to Wonga and the other ‘payday loan companies’ …
For all the fact that there is an ongoing economic crisis, the fact remains that Britain is still one of the wealthiest nations in the world. It is a shocking indictment of the way the country is run, that we see so many children going to school hungry, that Save the Children Fund have started operating here, that a generation Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by the governments of the world in San Francisco in December 1948 states that, “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” That is surely how the world should be. However it does seem that in Britain today this is far from the case….
Perhaps we will never have a completely fair world where all children have a chance to be all they can be. It is something worth working towards, both globally and in this country. However, this government don’t even seem to want to try
Football Unites, Racism Divides – Issue 8 (October 2013) Next Post:
true faith: THE HISTORY FILE (Liverpool)