Retiring Glasgow education boss raises £6000 for Malawi schooling

More than £6000 has been raised by Glasgow’s education boss to improve schooling in Malawi.

Maureen McKenna, who is stepping down from her role after 14 years, launched a fundraiser to collect cash for Malawi Leaders of Learning, a charity she set up in 2011.

Set up to mark her retiral from Glasgow City Council, the fund passed £6000 last week, and Ms McKenna said the response has been “fabulous”.

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Schools across Glasgow have donated to the fundraiser, with many also paying tribute to the city’s education director.

What does the charity do?

Malawi Leaders of Learning sends teachers and students to the African country with the aim of improving standards in both countries by sharing experience and expertise, and to keep girls in education.

It has also opened libraries in schools in Blantyre, Malawi.

Glasgow City Council said increased spend on agency workers had led to a £1 million overspend.

Ms McKenna, who was awarded an OBE in 2015 for her services to education in Glasgow and Malawi, said she asked for donations to the charity because: “I’ve got a good job, a good pension, and I don’t like when people have to give money to you when you leave.”

Plans for the future

Despite retiring from the council, she is planning to return to Malawi next year, and she said the highlight of her time as Glasgow’s education chief has been “working with children and the differences we’ve made to children and young people across the city”.

She added the past two years had been “so difficult” but the “amazing” work done in schools meant Glasgow had been “well placed” to deal with the pandemic.

Tributes for Maureen

At the final full council meeting of 2021, the city’s Lord Provost Philip Braat paid tribute to Ms McKenna.

He said: “In post for 14 years as head of Glasgow’s schools and nurseries, Maureen’s main aim throughout her tenure has been to empower schools and staff to nurture every one of Glasgow’s children, young people and their families.

“Maureen has led the transformational change of the city’s learning and teaching which has resulted in significant increases in attainment and achievement, with more young people leaving to go to higher and further education than ever before and a monumental drop in exclusion, down 94 per cent since 2007.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank Maureen and her team for all of Glasgow’s education successes under her tenure. She loves Glasgow and that shines bright when talking about our children and families, our schools and nurseries and our teachers and staff across our city.”

He added: “Maureen, as we all know, is a dominant force of nature and her legacy will live on in our pupils and their families, and will continue to impact for many years to come.”

The city’s education convener, Cllr Chris Cunningham, added: “In my view Glasgow is losing one of the finest public officials that it has been my privilege to work with.

“Hugely knowledgeable in her field, in command of a large department with its many thousands of teachers and support staff, and above all fiercely committed to the education and life chances of Glasgow’s young people.

“Maureen’s legacy rests with the increasing success of Glasgow’s young people over these many years. As attainment has risen, exclusion has dropped and positive destinations have grown.

“Her focus has been on the education of all of our young people, no matter what their background or circumstances.”