Special to the tribune
India gasped to meet CWG deadlines; UK struggles to educate ‘illiterate’ staff for Olympics
Shyam Bhatia in London
Indians still reeling from various scandals reported during and after the last year’s Commonwealth Games should spare a thought for the start of an even more bitter season of misery for those in charge of the forthcoming London Olympics.
Long before corruption allegations and the arrest of Suresh Kalmadi, some of the most severe criticism of the Delhi Commonwealth Games came from British officials who suggested that an alternative site should be found because conditions in athletes’ village in Delhi were disgusting beyond belief.
Michael Cavanagh, head of the Commonwealth Games of Scotland, commented last year, “There have been dogs roaming around the village, the apartments are filthy..” Another British official commented, “Allocated accommodation blocks are far from finished” and are “unsafe and unfit for human habitation”.
Next year’s London Olympics are expected to cost the British taxpayers around $15 billion or more, which is more than twice the $6 billion budget that India spent on the Commonwealth Games, but, despite British pride in national efficiency and organising skills, cracks are beginning to appear in the preparations leading up to the opening day on July 27, 2012.
It turns out that hundreds of recently employed staff at a brand new Olympic shopping mall were effectively illiterate, could not even add up basic figures and had to be given remedial education.
The Australian head of the Westfield shopping mall has told the local British media that some British children were leaving their schools without acquiring even the most basic skills.
“The most difficult thing was the number of persons who simply do not meet the basic reading and writing criteria,” Westfield Director John Burton commented. “They could not fill out forms without getting assistance.
They just weren’t ready to interview. We brought tutors in for people we thought might make it because their enthusiasm levels were high,” Burton said.
“Some of them were here for many, many weeks so that we could identify where help was needed and correct those deficiencies. As an Australian I found it incredible that people here can sidestep all checks there are in school and still fail the basic tests when they are the age for employment.”
One of the tutors involved in the remedial education programme said he was “astonished” at the shortfalls in basic skills.
Tutor Petr Mracek told the Evening Standard newspaper, “This meant that in numeracy their ability was very limited. They would not be able to add up 25 and 23 and would have no idea how to calculate volumes, areas and averages.”
“On literacy, people would have problems with grammar, spelling, punctuation, using correct tenses and so on. Even people who were native speakers of English would have really bad knowledge of their own language.”
Some Londoners say they are not surprised by such evidence of falling local educational standards. One reader commented cynically on the Evening Standard, website “Me no need me edukation, - me is going to be rapper and get on X factor or do some street dancin’ coz that’s where its at. An if I don’t get to do dat, me gonna hang wiv me gang and rob people!”
Another added, “Awright mate, ‘ows it going? no wha you mean about vem rappers they no naff all. Can’t speak propper English like us....cor blimey. Allways giving it the bigun, no wha’ I mean.....matey. Going back to me ‘ouse to now watch the telly to see Kerry Katona and Jordan on yet ANOTHER reality TV show.... COR BLIMEY.....MATE!”