Saroj Lal: Campaigners push to name Edinburgh school after trailblazing teacher

A campaign group, wishing to see a new city school named after the pioneering race relations campaigner Saroj Lal, has set up headquarters in Morningside.

Friday, 9th July 2021, 4:45 pm
Updated Monday, 12th July 2021, 10:29 am

Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.

On Friday, the Saroj Lal Campaign Centre was officially opened by Councillor Mandy Watt, accompanied by the late Ms Lal’s family and supporters.

The centre has been developed by Mrs Lal’s son Vineet Lal in partnership with the local charity, The Open Door.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Saroj Lal's son, Vineet Lal,  and granddaughter, Isha Saini, outside the new centre in Morningside. - Picture by: Jon Davey
Saroj Lal's son, Vineet Lal, and granddaughter, Isha Saini, outside the new centre in Morningside. - Picture by: Jon Davey

Hoping to drum up support for the proposed Saroj Lal Primary School, the campaign centre features a stunning window graphic of the late Mrs Lal along with a gallery display reflecting her life and legacy.

There are also examples of what the school T-shirt might look like, modelled on mannequins kindly loaned by Maddie & Mark’s in Bruntsfield Place.

A magnificent outdoor billboard has been placed at the Church Hill Theatre, reflecting Ms Lal’s enduring contribution to Morningside and the city as someone who fought for equality, diversity and fairness for all.

Mr Lal said: “I am delighted to be working in partnership with Simon Warr and his wonderful team at The Open Door to celebrate the amazing life and legacy of Saroj Lal, and to support the proposal to name Morningside’s new school as ‘Saroj Lal Primary School’.

Saroj Lal worked as a teacher at South Morningside Primary School between 1970-73.

“Saroj was a woman ahead of her time and naming the school after her would inspire generations of children yet to come to reach their full potential as effective citizens who can make a positive impact on life in the city.

“The Saroj Lal Campaign Centre provides us with a real focus, right at the very heart of the community in Morningside, enabling us to share Saroj’s story with the local community and explain why naming the new school after her supports our collective, shared vision of community, diversity and equality.”

Operational manager for The Open Door Simon Warr said the charity is proud to lend its support to naming Morningside's new primary school ‘Saroj Lal Primary School’.

He said: “Saroj Lal was a truly remarkable woman who embodied the core values of The Open Door – providing love, friendship, support, inclusion and a sense of community – in every aspect of her life: education, activism, and race relations.”

Saroj made history 51 years ago when she introduced herself to a class of fresh-faced P3 pupils at Edinburgh’s South Morningside Primary School to become the state school’s first ever BAME school teacher and one of just a handful working in Scotland at that time.

Born in Gujranwala, in what was then British India, Mrs Lal, who sadly died aged 82 in March 2020, moved to Edinburgh with her young family in the 1960s and, after successfully passing her PGCE at Moray House, became a teacher at South Morningside on August 20, 1970.

She would go on to spend decades fighting prominently for equal opportunities. She would become director of the Lothian Racial Equality Council (LREC), and work closely with the Home Office, the NHS and the police.

Mrs Lal has since recognised in the Scottish Parliament, campaign groups she worked alongside and attracted touching tributes from the likes of Blue Peter’s Valerie Singleton and a large contingent of former pupils who recalled her fondly.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.