Our story, as many of you are aware, started with the premature loss of two exceptional people. They were very different individuals, both loved by a large group of others. Their professional work in the sphere of English teaching, particularly in their home area of London and particularly in secondary schools, was recognised nationally as significant.
The first was Ros Moger, who unexpectedly died of a pulmonary embolism while flying back from a holiday in August 1999. Ros was a beautiful human being, had a fine mind and was a fierce advocate of gender equality and of progressive English teaching. Her work as a senior school leader and teacher-educator was widely recognised and respected.
The second loss, less than two years after we had formed the Ros Moger scholarships under the auspices of Canon Collins, was that of Terry Furlong, an important member of our group and a friend of Ros. Terry died after a period of illness. Terry was a leading light in the National Association for the Teaching of English, and a local-authority English inspector. He was also a polymath and renaissance person who was a fine flute player. He had a thirty-year relationship with his much-loved partner Gabriel Genest, who joined our group after Terry’s death and generously made a significant contribution to support our work in Terry’s name. At this point it seemed only logical for us to amend the Ros Moger scholarships to the Ros Moger / Terry Furlong scholarships.
After Ros’s death, I had a burning desire to keep her name and legacy alive, and invited a group of her friends to join me in forming some kind of trust. We were uncertain how to go about such an endeavour but were assisted by Sue Adler, who suggested that we should consider partnering with Canon Collins. This seemed to us a very sensible move, as Ros had a long-term interest and family connection through her brother in west Africa, and a personal interest with me in the politics and development of southern Africa. Working as part of an umbrella organisation would give us guidance and expertise, as well as accountancy support and, if we needed, it legal assistance.
The work of our group has grown and matured during our 21 years of supporting students in South Africa and other southern African countries to gain higher-education qualifications; initially, in the early 2000s, to gain first degrees and then, over this last decade, increasingly to gain Masters degrees and PhDs. We have seen the benefits of the professionalisation of the selection process adopted by Canon Collins. We have worked closely with the Trust’s chief executives and other officers in the selection process, which takes place in South Africa each year, by having members of our group attend. We initially focused on the selection of students in the areas of language and literacy development and gender equality, following Ros and Terry’s legacy, as well as the arts and humanities. Over time we have broadened these areas to include science education, special educational needs, the fight against HIV and AIDS, and environmental concerns. We also have played a role in assisting in the wider Canon Collins selection process, not simply selecting our own students.
In our two decades of this work we have assisted over 140 students to again a higher- education degree in southern Africa. We began as a ‘boutique’ partner, to coin a phrase, to our much larger sister organisation. But our role has expanded thanks to the generous support of you, our guests this evening, and including those friends who are no longer with us. But we have also been blessed by the kindness of strangers who, once hearing of our work in meeting an ever-expanding need, have been in a financial position to give generous donations to our cause. What is most important for me to emphasise, however, is that despite the importance and generosity of these often anonymous one-off donations, our journey would not have been possible without the regular smaller donations made in the early years, and that are still made today, 21 years after our first ask. We have raised by these combined efforts over £700,000.