Edinburgh City Council has ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to stand against racism, says campaigners

Campaigners say naming Edinburgh’s new primary school after trailblazing race-relations pioneer Saroj Lal will send a powerful message about what the Capital stands for.

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Eligible voters in South Edinburgh have been sent a survey asking them to rank three proposed names for a new school on Morningside’s Canaan Lane.

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The new school is due to open to nursery and primary one pupils in August 2022 and it’s hoped it will be named by the end of this year.

Saroj Lal became one of Edinburgh's first ethnic minority female teachers when she began work at South Morningside Primary in the 1970s.

The three names put forward for consideration are - Canaan Lane, North Morningside and Saroj Lal.

A dedicated campaign to name the school the Saroj Lal Primary School has been run by Ms Lal’s son, Vineet Lal.

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Mr Lal said naming the school after his mother would a fitting tribute. Ms Lal became one of the city’s first ethnic minority teachers when she began work at South Morningside Primary in the 1970s.

Right up until her death at age 82 Ms Lal worked at the forefront of race relations in the Capital, becoming director of Lothian Racial Equality Council in the 1980s.

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Mr Lal went on to say that the school naming provides the council with a unique opportunity to take a stand against racism and be at the heart of change.

Speaking to the Evening News, Mr Lal said: “I am absolutely thrilled that the long-running campaign to name Edinburgh’s newest primary school after Saroj Lal, the pioneering educator, trailblazer for women’s rights and champion for race relations, is finally reaching its conclusion.

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“Eligible voters in South Edinburgh now have a chance to have their say. This is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, both to commemorate Saroj’s life and legacy, and to inspire generations of young people yet to come.

“Naming the school after Saroj would send a powerful message to the world about Edinburgh and Scotland, about us, about who we are and what we stand for. It would place the City of Edinburgh Council centre stage, as a global leader in taking a stance against racism, and in the fight for equality and diversity. As the current debate around racism in cricket has shown, that fight is more important now than it ever was.”

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Let’s be proud to be us

Mr Lal has asked parents and locals to “be bold” in their choices as the survey is sent out asking them to pick a name.

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He said: “Let’s be bold. Let’s make history happen. Let’s be proud to be us.”

While the campaign has received some racially-fuelled backlash online it has also received significant support from the community and local councillors.

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Local politician Mandy Watt has publicly supported the campaign from the beginning and said she hopes Saroj Lal is the name chosen for the new school.

She said: “I am hoping that Saroj Lal is chosen as the name for the new primary school in Morningside because this would give the school community a unique identity and an inspiring story to tell, right from the start.

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“It’s something for the children at the school to aspire to. There’s a history, a story, a big personality that they can take as inspiration for what they want to do in life.”

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