More than 50 years ago, in August 1970, a new teacher arrived at South Morningside Primary School. A new teacher called Saroj Lal, who had come to Edinburgh all the way from Singapore.

She had been born and brought up in India, and studied to be a teacher at Moray House College of Education.

There were only a handful of Asian families in Edinburgh at that time. Saroj was a pioneer, one of very few black or Asian primary school teachers in the city. Her husband was a college lecturer, and the family had moved to Edinburgh because of his job.

They had two little children – a boy, who was five, and a baby girl who was only one year old.

Pupils in her class adored being taught by her. They said what a lovely and kind teacher she was. She was proud of her culture and heritage, and always wore beautiful saris, gold bangles and bright red lipstick.

Saroj was fond of reading stories to her class, doing all sorts of projects, and arts and crafts. She suddenly had to learn about British life, and about the books and TV programmes her class enjoyed at home. The Narnia books and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland were some of her favourites.

She loved watching Blue Peter and was inspired by its dynamic young presenter, Valerie Singleton, who was almost exactly the same age as her. Saroj introduced her class to other cultures and life in other countries, so her pupils would see that the world is a rich and diverse place.

She noticed that, when she was out and about in Edinburgh, very often she wasn’t treated equally because she was a woman, and because she was originally from India. Some people were racist, simply because of the colour of her skin.

Saroj knew that the children at school were not racist. Her class didn’t mind what her gender and colour were, so she realised that racism and prejudice are not things you are born with. She saw that there was a need to change how people think and behave, and the way they treat others, and would spend the rest of her life doing just that.

Fighting for equality.

‘ It is so rewarding to know that my time on Blue Peter was such an inspiration to Saroj Lal who passed on the values of the programme to her pupils at South Morningside Primary School. Clearly these values were very close to her own. She especially found our film Blue Peter Royal Safari, shot in Kenya, a great inspiration and it led to her later work in race relations.

Saroj was a very special and exceptional teacher, and without doubt she has created a future generation of adults who will be hugely concerned for the welfare of less fortunate children in the world.’

Valerie Singleton
Former Blue Peter presenter

Photo© Les Wilson