‘It was the strangest school I have ever attended. The nuns, who were all Irish, were very welcoming, gentle and sweet.’ (p60)
Following on from my previous blog Education and Schooling Part 1, comes my second blog on Kathleen’s comparisons between her experiences in her convent school in Chester and her new school in India. Kathleen wrote her memoir as ‘I appeared to have lived a very different childhood from almost every one of my friends who were of my generation’ (preface.np). I have found that by exploring her varied education across two continents it has further helped to serve the purpose of Kathleen’s memoir which is to educate and demonstrate her varied childhood.
Their time spent in the convent school in India highlighted the educational advancement Kathleen and her sister had experienced whilst studying in England. Both sisters were unrivalled in their classes as previously discussed, however the most significant factors that can be taken from Kathleen’s memoirs are the variations in terms of structure, teaching and class-mates between both schools.
Kathleen presents ‘white’ family attitudes towards the Indian convent school within her memoir suggesting, ‘one of the chief complaints about sending English children to be taught by nuns was the fear of them picking up a chi-chi accent, once acquired it was difficult to eradicate.’(61). Kathleen also states that the convent school was rejected by many parents due to the fact that ‘nuns refused to bar coloured children’ (p60). Kathleen’s parents ‘decided that we would not be contaminated by being taught alongside the Indian children’(p60) and therefore she was allowed to attend the convent. It is interesting that Kathleen touches upon ideas of racism in terms of her education as she is aware that white families felt a certain sense of unrest by allowing their children to mix amongst other races.
During her time in her Indian school Kathleen is aware ‘the standard was well below the Convent in Chester’ (p62), she is aware her classmates did not share the same academic abilities as her, divulging how many felt ‘if the girl next to you had an answere which appeared to be correct you just copied it if you were clever enough to get a glimpse of it’ (p62). Kathleen is shocked by her classmates inability to use their own initiative and is further disheartened by her new schools lack of games and sportsmanship.
Kathleen is impressed by her education in Ursuline Convent in Chester as she is still able to remember things she was taught there more than forty years later (p18); a great homage not only to her school but also to the English educational system she was a part of! In contrast Kathleen describes her second school in India as, ‘very different from its counterpart in England.’ (p63), suggesting the education on offer to her and the fellow army families in India was severely lacking compared to that of England.
Whilst reading Kathleen’s memoir it was also interesting to note that her family were not actually Roman Catholic and her father ‘would have had a fit, if he had known because, although he allowed Betty and I to attend two convents, he made sure there was no question of us being indoctrinated with the Catholic religion’ (p67). Her father’s beliefs suggest that convent schools were probably much more highly thought of than standard schools in terms of the education they provided and regardless of their religion Kathleen’s parents wanted their children to have the best education they could.
Rene Kollar states, ‘with the growth of high quality secondary schools for girls operated by these nuns in England and on the Continent, non-catholic parents began to send their daughters to such convent institutions to receive an education similar to one their sons would receive, and the nuns as a rule promised not to interfere with the religious beliefs of their Protestant students.'(170)
Kollar highlights that it is possible that Kathleen was sent to two convent schools as her parents felt this was the best education their children could receive. Suggesting education was highly important to them and they believed that by allowing their children the best education available it would only lead to positive outcomes.
Lindley, Kathleen M: ‘A time to be born’ Typescript. 98pp 1976, Brunel University Library.
Kollar, Rene: ‘A foreign and wicked institution?: The campaign against convents in Victorian England.’ James Clarke & Co ltd. 2011