Some Reminiscences of Leicester University College

MT 60 Years Ago

3rd Year No 75 – Friday 13th January 1956

•       Il n’est pas du tout question, pour moi, de célébrer et de conserver à tout prix l’impérialisme de la race blanche. – G. Duhamel

Some Reminiscences of Leicester University College

LP Ramyead B.A. (London), Diploma in Education (Leicester)

Mr Ramyead, one time tutor at the Royal College, came back in December last after spending about fifteen months in Europe. During his stay in England he read for a Diploma in Education at the Leicester University College. Mr Ramyead’s article will no doubt interest our readers especially those who intend leaving the colony to pursue higher studies in UK.

Leicester University College is a widely growing institution. The Science and Arts Departments are still External Branches of London University, but the tremendous expansion the College is undergoing these days will very soon fetch the University Charter to which the Leicester Education authorities are looking forward. Leicester has a high reputation for courses and research in Chemistry, Last year, when I left the University College, a very magnificent building was being erected to house the Student’s Union halls and offices.

Education Department

The Education Department, however, is an independent body. It is not an external branch of London. It trains graduates for the teaching profession. In the session 1954-55, however, two or three out of about 90 students were undergraduates. As I was a student of the Department, let me give a glimpse the students’ activities there.

The Preliminary Fortnight

There’s the Preliminary Fortnight. Under the supervision of a tutor and a group of eight to ten students, you visit nurseries, primary, Junior and Secondary Schools. The best and most representative schools are selected for the purpose. If you come from a country where the education system is much less advanced, you will see things very different there. For instance, look at the attitude of the British teacher towards the pupils in the primary schools. I heard many of the children calling the female teacher “Mum”. On one occasion, I saw a female teacher dealing with a 7-year-old child who had started getting at mischief. She fixed her look on the child, and very calmly and courteously said: “Margaret, excuse me…” If our primary school teachers could come to adopt this attitude, our children, I am sure, would leave school with more self-respect and a higher sense of human dignity. During the preliminary fortnight, you keep moving from one school to another; it’s often a whirligig of impressions and experiences.

The Preliminary Fortnight is closed by the Presentation Day. Every group before an audience of tutors and students presents an event. Our group, under Miss Mary Swainson, Doctor in Psychology, expressed their views against streaming in schools. This was done by means of a play where a board interviewed candidates for teaching posts.

The Morning Lecture

A regular feature of the first term is the morning lecture. You should be in the lecture hall at 9 am. And it’s no exaggeration to say that to many students hailing from the tropical parts of the world and not used to the severe cold and the morning mist and fog, this punctual attendance at 9 am sometimes means nothing less than a pretty ordeal. The lecturing Professor gives you a chance of 10 minutes, after which he strides to the door and closes it. If you are late, you need good luck to open the door from outside and walk in, don’t you? I remember how my friend Thorpe, one morning, quietly opened the door with his empty pipe set between his teeth, and walked in, he took a seat, placed his empty pipe back in his pocket and shyly looked towards the lecturer.

Discussion Groups

The discussion group meets once weekly. Every group is composed of eight to ten students. Here you discuss in an informal manner the lectures you have been attending and any other subject which has a bearing of some sort on Education. You find that book-learning helps but little here. What you need is ready wit and alertness of mind. The value of these discussions, of course, lies in the fact that they help to bring home what you did not quite grasp in the lectures; but they do more than this, they foster originality, argumentativeness and a critical bent of mind.

The Teaching Practice

The Teaching Practice is quite an enjoyable part of the course. Much emphasis is laid on the practical portion at Leicester. It is being increasingly realised everywhere that the Education course is a necessity to the teaching profession, not a mere luxury. I was attached to Gateway Boy’s Grammar School and one of the things which struck me there was the existence of a Careers’ Department run by some members of the staff. It functions conjointly with the Youth Employment Bureau, and it gives to the boys the advice and guidance so precious indeed in helping them to take up the right job. It certainly plays an important part in ensuring that the boys don’t prove to be misfits in their later life.

Recreational Courses and Film Shows

Under this title come such topics as Photography, preliminary and advanced, Music appreciation and Horticulture. The obvious idea is to help the prospective teacher and indirectly numerous boys and girls to live a life which is richer and fuller.

There are extremely interesting film shows to illustrate lectures dealing with child guidance and important problems of psychology.

Lectures From Outside

Now and then the University is honoured with the visits of famous lecturers from other universities. A. S. Neil’s talk on “The Free Child” caused sensation. After the talk, Dr Pedley member of the staff who had presented him to the students said: “To-day I have received two shots, one from a ball against my arm on the playfield this morning, and the other from A. S. Neil now in the lecture-hall.” Distinguished guests also address the students. At the Students’ Congress last year, it was the wife of the Governor of Jamaica who spoke to the gathering.

Amongst other things, she said: “I have a secret remedy for those who suffer from any distress of body or mind; it is hard-very hard-work.” She was the first woman to have the honour of addressing the Students’ Congress at Leicester. And when she was presented with a nosegay at the end of her talk, she stepped forward, bowed to the audience and humourously added: “I hope you found your first woman alright.” I remember she came to Leicester shortly before Mrs Vijaya Luxmi Pandit addressed the students only a few miles away at Loughborough Co-operative College.

Entertainment

There is a Liaison Officer – a member of the staff — to look after the interests of students from overseas. Now and then the Liaison Officer, Mr Primrose and his wife, ask the students to tea. I loved their very sympathetic ways. The wife of Professor Tibble, the Head of the Education Department, also entertains the students. The Students’ Union now and then organises a party. The International Students’ Association puts up lovely shows. Overseas students are expected to produce something in the form of music and songs, typical of their native country, I was much struck with the very sprightly and rhythmic dancing of the Nigerians.

There it was that Anne Tibble, the wife of the Professor, appeared in a beautiful white sari. In a letter we received from her last month, she writes: “I think the dress of Indian women the most becoming and feminine of the world.”

Leicester is the heart of the Midlands. And outside the college you find the ordinary people not only helpful and courteous but friendly and loving.

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