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