Letters: Europe has its own form of racial discrimination

These letters were published in the Monday 9 December edition of the Independent
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As we celebrated the achievements of Nelson Mandela, I received the following SMS: “One of our brothers have problem – the military flog him to die. Please make the media to know that.”

The message was from black African migrants, camped out on a hillside near the Spanish-Moroccan border at Melilla, whom I had met this November during a research visit to the region. And the news that one of their number has been “flogged to death” does not surprise me.

The migrants are young and daring and absolutely set on crossing the border, but, in the dead of night, the Moroccan police certainly don’t hold back. And the authorities are funded by Brussels.

It is somehow beyond irony that, as Europe praises the achievements of Madiba, we, the “civilised Europeans”. are, on our doorstep, working hard to “keep the blacks out”.

Alan Mitcham, Cologne, Germany 


The release of two Algerians from Guantanamo after 10 years’ detention without charge is a cruel reminder of governments abusing people’s freedoms.

How many world leaders attending Nelson Mandela’s funeral will reflect on his imprisonment under the draconian security laws of apartheid and understand that democracy and its rights are not a privilege of the white Western world to be selectively applied, but something to be extended to all people, friend or foe alike?

Ian McKenzie , Lincoln


One of the most moving images in recent days was of a man standing in front of the Israeli government’s exclusion wall, holding a picture of Nelson Mandela. I wonder how long the Palestinians and Bedouin will have to wait for apartheid and oppression to crumble in their region.

H N Stanley, Leckhampton, Cheltenham


Nelson Mandela’s vision and commitment to a solution have to be harnessed in a situation not too different – Palestine.

South African nationalists were beaten through sanctions when the business community told De Klerk he had to make peace and settle. So it could be with Palestine. Release Marwan Barghouti, then withdraw the associate status that grants Israel preferential access to EU markets. Netanyahu, like De Klerk, will then have to engage in serious negotiations.

Peter Downey, Wellow, Somerset


David Cameron had good reason to look uncomfortable when trying to devise a response to Nelson Mandela’s death. He may at some time have paid lip service to the end of apartheid in South Africa, but does not believe in equality in his own country. Mr Mandela’s character and personality and all he stood for were the direct opposite of the policies of this Conservative Government.

Eileen Noakes, Bridgetown, Devon


Nelson Mandela continued to forgive all who had ever done wrong against him and his people until his very last breath. If only our own politicians had but one ounce of his passion, honesty and integrity, this country would be a far better place.

Instead, we end up with the Nasty Party, once again doing all the things that Mandela would have campaigned against.

Michael W Cook, Soulbury, Buckinghamshire


The man who checked Jobs' first computer

Ron Wayne’s recollections of his involvement with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (“The Apple founder who missed out”, 7 December) brought back memories of my good friend Wayne Green (who published Byte magazine and who, sadly, died in September). He visited Jobs in 1976 in the garage of his parents’ house to view the first Apple computer.

Jobs asked Wayne what he thought of it, Wayne told him it was a winner. He subsequently told Jobs to get his computer to the Atlanta Computer/Radio Convention – quickly. The trouble was that Jobs couldn’t “afford the air fare”. Wayne told him to get a bus instead. He did. And on that first day there, an excited Jobs told Wayne that he had taken 12 orders and was “now in business”.

The “banner” that Roy Wayne described in the article, was directly opposite Wayne Green’s booth at that convention. This is how Apple began.

Ray J Howes, Weymouth, Dorset


Give education back to the teachers

Your editorial (4 December) suggested Michael Gove’s reform programme “has much to recommend it”.However, you seem to have disregarded its potential pitfalls and ignored what should be learnt from nations with a successful record in school reform.

Mr Gove has encouraged an ever-increasing range of school types, thus fracturing the school system into separate fiefdoms. This risks schools being less inclined to work collaboratively. The decline of Sweden’s standing in Pisa tables, after implementing free schools, arguably offers evidence of this risk. 

Teaching is a profession where colleagues need to learn from each other. In a culture of increased competition, arising from performance-related pay reform, teachers may be less likely to share their success for fear of an adverse impact on their personal remuneration. 

Our legislators should look at Finland’s educational success. It is a nation where teaching is a high-status and highly qualified profession without “fast-tracking”; where student testing is limited to the minimum so that it does not become the “tail wagging the dog”; where responsibility and trust are more prevalent than oppressive accountability; where collaboration between schools and teachers is preferred to competition; and where teachers, not politicians, control curriculum, student assessment and school improvement.

Pete Crockett, Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire


Rosie Millard (4 December) says: “Our children can’t read and add up.” This is a shocking indictment but is in no way borne out by the Pisa results, which must be treated with considerable circumspection.

China, quoted as a shining example by Ms Millard, is, in fact, just Shanghai – which is totally untypical. And the differences in marks between countries placed quite far apart are very small: the Netherlands was ranked 10th and the UK 26th, but the mark difference was three per cent – which could easily be explained by testing methodology.

Ms Millard says: “China and the rest are streaking ahead of us” and that British education “is fast becoming the worst”. But the figures show that, compared with 2009, our ranking has remained virtually constant or even slightly improved.

 What is true is that the Asian countries have streaked ahead of Europe, with only Finland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland now in the top ten. It is also true that such short-term comparisons have very limited value.

That there are deep-rooted problems in our state-school system cannot be denied, but a critique based on wild assertions will not advance the debate.

Michael Foss, Teddington


Prosperity should begin at home

Britain’s PM goes to China etc, begging for inward investment into the UK;  he succeeds and Britain becomes more prosperous. 

Therefore, citizens of poor countries pay crooks to get them into Britain so that they can get some of the prosperity. They send money home or they pay the crooks more money to get their families to join them in the UK. Then Britain spends more of the proceeds of its prosperity to erect and maintain ever more barriers to keep the immigrants out.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to use the resources of the City of London and our own skills to fund our prosperity and to encourage other countries, perhaps by example, to invest in the poorer countries so as to increase their prosperity and to make their citizens less likely to want to emigrate?

Geoff Harris


Warwick I am concerned that our Prime Minister is putting so much faith in allowing China to invest so much in the UK. 

China is a communist country. We have experienced a Labour government spending more than we could afford, hence we have one of the worst debts on the planet.

What happens when China runs out of money? As with all empires, it will collapse, and my suspicion is that could be sooner rather than later.

Labour would happily sign contracts regardless of whether they/we could follow through. The Chinese seem to be doing the same. That is why I favour our continued membership of the EU. I would rather trust our nearest neighbours with whom we have a long history.

Richard Grant, Burley, Hampshire


Summoning up the dead?

This week I witnessed a vehicle passing through the village where I live driven by someone on a mobile phone. Not an unusual occurrence these days – but the vehicle was a hearse. Could it be he was looking for a customer ?

Ray Radley, Horringer, Suffolk