Star Events Rigs Up A School

Staff at the Bedforshire, England-based Star Events would hardly have been surprised by U.K. chancellor Gordon Brown’s revelations about how little it would cost to educate all the kids in the world as they’re already funding a school in Africa.

Brown, who’s the subject of constant media speculation about when he’s likely to succeed Tony Blair as Labour leader and prime minister, wrote a front-page piece for The Independent. He said it would only cost $10 billion a year to provide education for every child in every country, which is the equivalent of only two pence a day from each person living in the richest countries.

While the U.K. government is earmarking US$15 billion over 10 years for global education, the 32 staff at Star Events – which was formed in 2003 from the amalgamation of Star Hire and Star Rigging – is paying for a school in Guinea Bissau, the smallest country in Africa and one of the poorest in the world.

“It has an adult literacy rate of about 4 percent and the vast majority of those are male,” company development director Roger Barrett explained.

“The key target is to provide English language training on a commercial basis for the few companies that can pay – mainly banks and oil companies – and use that money to subsidise English lessons for local people, especially women. Equal opportunity awareness classes are being built in.”

The staff at Star Events, which provided the staging and the rigging for last year’s Live 8 show in Hyde Park, sees the scheme as a bit of an antidote to the view that the gig was great but didn’t didn’t really change anything in Africa.

The Star Events School of English, which has eight classrooms, was set up by Barrett’s younger brother Nick. He helped train teachers in Guinea Bissau as part of a scheme funded by Voluntary Service Overseas. But the political situation has a track record of instability and the VSO is now looking to pull out.

Since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974, the 1.5 million-population country – which is on the North Atlantic coast squeezed between Guinea and Senegal – has a history of coups, counter coups and civil war. But it appears to have stabilised since Joao Bernardo “Nino” Vieira (who originally came to power via a military coup) was democratically reelected in 2005.

The first batch of Star Events’ money has been spent on renting the premises, buying a generator and paper and pens. The next batch will be to pay basic staff salaries, which are about £1 an hour.

“Through my brother’s involvement, we are helping with the school’s management and financial structure and so we’re absolutely sure that every penny we send is going directly to where it’s most needed,” Barrett told Pollstar.

“At the moment we’re not particularly looking for donations as the scheme is supported throughout the company. But, if anyone is so minded, we can certainly advise on how they can best help and also demonstrate that none of their money will be siphoned off to fund further corruption.”

Company human resources director Maddy Sheals is administering the scheme from the Star Events end. She can be contacted at [email protected]

– John Gammon