Pauline Latham is the newly-elected MP for the new constituency of Mid Derbyshire. In her maiden speech this week, she explained that a "spiteful" decision by Labour-controlled Derbyshire County Council politicised her in the 1980s, as well as explaining how she has started a social action project in Uganda:
"I am fortunate to have known my right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales [Patrick McLoughlin] since just after his narrow by-election win in 1986, when the then Labour Derbyshire county council decided to abolish, not for educational reasons but from political spite, the sixth form at the school that my children attended. As chairman of the school parent teacher association, it was left to me to lead the campaign to save the sixth form of what was, and is, the most successful comprehensive in the county. We even had an Adjournment debate in this place. It did not start until after 3 o’clock in the morning but it was attended by more than 150 parents, staff and children. The campaign was successful and the sixth form was saved.
"Since those times my interest in international development has grown through starting a project in Uganda with students from two of the four secondary schools in Mid Derbyshire. We have been to Uganda to see what it is like for children to be brought up in a developing poor country. The project links very well with my interest in education, because we help schools over there. The students pay most of the cost of the trip, but we all fundraise to pay for the rest and for the aid that we take to the two schools that we support. Last year, £12,000 was shared between the schools. It is a good way for students from relatively comfortable backgrounds to see that others can be as successful as them. Just because the Ugandan students are poor does not mean that they cannot succeed.
"Students from Ecclesbourne school in Duffield and Woodlands school in Allestree spend many of their weekends fundraising, which has included bag-packing in supermarkets, washing cars, running stalls at fairs and baking cakes for sale. The students have learned to speak in public, either at school to inspire other students to help or in local churches to explain why we have a cake stall after the service. They have also learned that fundraising is hard work.
"Those young people see students in Uganda who have nothing but who are getting on with a good education without books or equipment. They study the same syllabus but without a textbook in sight, relying only on the teacher’s knowledge to learn, often by rote, from the blackboard. Their schools are in poor rural communities and it has been useful for our students to realise that from an early age Ugandan students have to fetch water from the well before walking up to seven miles to school. They do not have iPods, computers, mobile phones or the internet—luxuries that our students take for granted. The fundraising has transformed the life chances of the children we have helped in Uganda, as well as giving our students an insight into what real poverty is. I have also been to Rwanda with a Conservative party project, so I am delighted that we are committed to work towards our 0.7% international development goal."