Beginning as the Joint Action Commission Against Racial Intolerance (JACARI), Jacari was founded by University of Oxford students back in 1956, making it Oxford's oldest student-founded charity. Striving for equal opportunities has always been at the heart of our work, but we have come a long way since we began tackling inequality through political discussions and activism more than 6 decades ago.
The journey toward becoming the tutoring scheme we are today is a fascinating one featuring celebrity speakers, huge campaigns, diverse collaborations, and holiday projects across the country—not to mention the hard work of thousands of dedicated volunteers. Our history is a testament to what university students can achieve.
If you are interested in hearing Jacari's full story (as told by Jamie Dear and Catherine Avery) . . . keep reading!
JACARI is Born: 1956
Records suggest that JACARI was set up as far back as June 1956 and officially registered with the Proctors (the University body in charge of regulating societies) in Michaelmas '56.
The initial aim was "to consider the problem of racial intolerance, and if possible to give useful expression to the views of members of the University." Or, to be more specific, "JACARI exists for two purposes: (1) To arouse among members of the University an interest in the problems of race relations in the Commonwealth by spreading reliable information . . . and (2) To find constructive ways of expressing a dislike of racial discrimination."
JACARI therefore began as a political organisation, with the Liberal, Conservative and Labour Clubs as founding supporters. In fact, JACARI soon united all sorts of university societies, many of which had delegates on the committee. For most of the 1960s, JACARI could claim that it was "supported by over fifty university clubs, including all major political, cultural societies." These ranged from the Buddhist Society, to the League of Christ the King Society, to the University Jazz Club. In addition, throughout the 1950s and 60s the student committee, which changed termly, was overseen by a more permanent senior advisory/regulatory board, made up of a President and seven Vice Presidents. The board members were very prestigious figures and included knights, lords, MPs and reverends.
Given all this support, it is perhaps unsurprising that JACARI seems to have been a great political force for good and very successful almost immediately. There was apparently no problem recruiting College Reps; in Michaelmas 1957 there were 31 reps, but within a term this had more than doubled to a massive 76, New College leading the way with five reps. Student membership soared—the Michaelmas 1958 end-of-term report puts the number of members at 2,354. Though this number had dropped to 1,250 in Michaelmas 1959, the letter to Freshmen still boasted that "we are the LARGEST University club." JACARI had clearly captured students' imagination.
Speaker Events: 1950s & '60s
However, to be a member of JACARI was not simply to be a card-carrying opponent of racial intolerance. The main regular activity in the '50s and '60s appears to have been the speaker events put on by the committee. The epoch was ripe for political discussion. Internationally, apartheid in South Africa and civil rights demonstrations in America were reaching their respective peaks. Internally, post-World War II Britain was facing various social difficulties. Many Afro-Caribbean immigrants arrived in this country to ease the labour shortage and suffered from countless problems.
Events ranged from small student discussion groups ("average attendance of fifty" according to the report from Michaelmas 1958) to lunch-time meetings (held weekly on Mondays throughout the '60s, lunch was provided or sold) to grand-scale debates in the Oxford Union main chamber. Speakers as high profile as Barbara Castle MP ('Whither Central Africa', Trinity 1958), the philosopher AJ "Freddie" Ayer ('The Background of Racialism', Hilary 1960) and even James Callaghan MP ('The Central African Federation', Trinity 1959), later Prime Minister (1976-1979), spoke to packed rooms.
Other speakers included Frank Parker, Vice-Chairman of JACARI, "an American law student who has fled to Oxford to escape arrest in Alabama," speaking on the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, as well as the Prime Minister of British Guiana (Michaelmas 1965) and Lady Gaitskell, wife of the former Labour Party leader, Hugh Gaitskell, on 'A Labour view of Immigration' (Hilary 1966). The Hilary 1960 Newsletter highlights the fact that some of these events were "extremely well attended (sometimes embarrassingly so)."
From 1961, there was a bookstall at JACARI speaker events for members to purchase relevant books and magazines about race relations. By 1964, this had become the first JACARI library of books and pamphlets, originally located at St Ebbe's Voluntary Centre and open at lunchtimes. The library later moved to Rhodes House in 1966.
The William Brogden Memorial Scholarship: 1956
Early JACARI members also got involved in numerous campaigns and appeals. Perhaps the most interesting project was the 'William Brogden Memorial Scholarship'. This appears to have been set up to commemorate Bill Brogden of Exeter College who sadly passed away in Michaelmas 1957 while on the JACARI committee. A fund was set up to allow a South African student to study at Oxford for three years. As the October 1956 newsletter states, this was to publicly challenge South African apartheid measures:
"The Government of the Union of South Africa is proposing very shortly to introduce legislation excluding non-Europeans from the Universities of Cape Town and Witwatersrand . . . We feel that the establishment of this scholarship . . . will show that members of the University feel very strongly about the problem of racial intolerance, and we wish to help in its solution if possible without aggravating the tense situation in certain areas . . . [the scholarship] will also be a timely gesture of good will towards African people whose academic facilities in any case fall far short of ours."
Yet the Chairman's frank end-of-term report in Michaelmas 1958 shows that this wasn't as successful as first hoped: "The term was in many respects a frustrating and unsatisfactory one. The reason is not hard to find. The JACARI Scholar, Jeppe Mei, who was expected to arrive in September from South Africa did not appear, and negotiations for a passport have been continuing ever since."
This seems to have been quite a depressing barrier for the newly formed society to come up against: "After two and a half years of effort to raise £2,000 [approximately £28,000 in today's money] members will no doubt understand the gloom into which Jeppe's absence plunged both the officers and myself."
Fundraising efforts had indeed been very extensive. To raise the money for the scholarship fund many begging letters and posters were drawn up, and several fundraising events were put on. For example, on 18th June 1959, JACARI organised a Jazz Concert in the Town Hall. "Some of the world's leading Jazzmen" played to an audience of about 600, raising £60 (approximately £850 in today's money) towards the fund. It was in Trinity 1959 that the student successfully arrived, as the end-of-term report demonstrates: "The outstanding event of the term was the arrival of the William Brodgen Memorial Scholar, Jeppe Mei, from South Africa on 2nd May. He is to spend a further two years at Wadham reading History."
The scholarship appears to have been very successful, with the scholar returning to Africa in 1962 to "take up a teaching post in Tanganyika." In October 1961 efforts to repeat the scholarship began; this time the target was to raise £2,200 (approximately £40,000 in today's money) by Hilary 1962. Records suggest that the committee had managed to collect half this amount by March 1962 and the plan was to keep going but it is unclear how long the scholarship fund actually continued. There was perhaps a switch to college schemes in the second half of the 60s; from Michaelmas 1965, term cards state that JACARI was working with colleges to set up scholarships for overseas students by providing information and advice. This project also seems to have met some success; the Hilary 1971 term card tells us that "a number" had been established.
Campaigns, Appeals, Petitions, & Boycotts: 1959-65
JACARI got involved with numerous other diverse and important projects in the first decade of its existence. These included:
Extensive fundraising in Hilary 1959, when the South African Open Universities were threatened with the exclusion of all non-Europeans. According to the newsletter it was "largely due to the efforts of JACARI that £1500 [approximately £21,000 in today's money] was sent from the University of Oxford to enable as many non-European students as possible to enter these universities before they were closed to all but Europeans."
A Christmas Appeal in 1959 for the Defence and Aid Fund. Vivid posters were displayed around the University crying "2/6 THE PRICE OF FREEDOM." All members were asked to contribute two shillings and six pence (approximately £1.75 in today's money) to the campaign against the locking up of 156 anti-apartheid protestors. This raised £150 (approximately £2,000 in today's money).
After running a day conference on "The New Africa" in 1960, JACARI began supporting the South African Committee for Higher Education (SACHED) campaign to "raise books to send to non-European students in South Africa who are excluded from 'all-white' Universities and are receiving private tuition for London University external degrees and 'A' Levels," people likely one day to become non-European leaders. Emotive posters were placed around the university stating: "WE EXPECT EVERY MAN AND WOMAN GOING DOWN TO GIVE ONE BOOK FOR A SOUTH AFRICAN STUDENT."
JACARI assisted this campaign for several years, until at least 1965. At one point SACHED was reaching 49 students, approximately 10% of all Africans receiving higher education at that time.
JACARI organised "campaigns to boycott the sale and use of South African goods in all colleges." The roots of the boycott movement can be traced to Hilary 1960 and the Chairman at the time, Patrick McAuslan noted "we can claim no small part in getting the whole country-wide movement started." The boycott appears to have continued until at least 1966.
In October 1961, JACARI launched the first of several campaigns against British Government Policy. Chairman Kenneth Leech issued a policy letter entitled 'UNITE AGAINST THE COLOUR BAR BILL', calling for members to write to their MPs against a government bill designed to curb immigration. He persuasively argues against the bill and criticises Sir Cyril Osborne MP who was reportedly quoted in the Daily Mail as saying that: "This is a white man's country and I want it to remain so."
In another paper in 1962 Leech called on MPs to consider the South Africa Bill and whether it was ethical to continue the System of Commonwealth Preference, worth some £51 million (approximately £687 million in today's money) annually to South Africa. He also asked the Ministry of Defence to clarify whether there had ever been a military alliance between the UK and South Africa.
March 1963 saw a petition organised on the basis that "The proposed tour of South Africa by a joint Oxford-Cambridge rugby team will entail playing only all-white teams before segregated audiences in compliance the regulations governing Apartheid in Sport." JACARI encouraged signatures from those who: ". . . believe that the tour will appear, particularly in South Africa, to imply approval by the University of the South African Government's Apartheid policies, and therefore urge Oxford University Rugby Football Club to cancel its plan to visit South Africa."
JACARI also set up a scheme to help new foreign students settle into Oxford life by encouraging members to get in contact them before the academic year began. This small programme was advocated in the Michaelmas 1964 newsletter where Chairman Hannan Rose emphasised that "JACARI feels that one of the best things students can do . . . is to meet students from overseas in this period before term starts." The programme was repeated in Michaelmas '66 and '67.
JACARI ran a fundraising appeal for civil rights workers in Mississippi trying to fight racial segregation and increase the number of black people registered to vote (February 1965).
In November 1965, JACARI organised a contingent of Oxford students to campaign outside the House of Commons against the Commonwealth Immigration Bill.
The Birth of the Teaching Scheme: 1965
How exactly JACARI got involved with teaching English to speakers of other languages has long been shrouded in mystery, but there is strong evidence to suggest that initially JACARI was just supporting another organisation's education project. A poster from Chairman Stephanie Parkinson in February 1965 announces the formation of the Oxford Committee on Racial Integration (OCRI), which JACARI helped to found, created in order to:
". . . combat racial intolerance in Oxford City. JACARI is assisting it in the work of its education, social affairs and information sub-committees. Many volunteers are needed to help with surveys and with the distribution of literature. Also members of the university who speak Urdu or Bengali and who are willing to help with English classes for immigrants are needed."
From Hilary 1966, notices begin appearing in term cards informing members that "JACARI is helping with the classes to teach Pakistani children English" and those interested can contact the Chairman. The scheme appears to have expanded rapidly and quickly separated from the OCRI, as the following year we are told that it is a "thriving JACARI activity" for "immigrant" rather than exclusively Pakistani children. The Michaelmas 1967 term card gives the first real explanation of the project: "Many members help immigrant school children, of different ages, to learn English. Many of them can't get on at school as they have not mastered the language and without extra help can never really overcome their handicap. An hour or so sometimes makes all the difference."
The early success seems to have continued. After a term in which "the scope of the JACARI scheme to teach immigrant children . . . increased enormously," David Halle became the first Teaching Scheme Secretary in Hilary 1968, a new role on the JACARI committee. The Trinity 1968 term card calls the programme "probably JACARI's most useful practical work" and asks members to recommend any children they know in need of help. The first real indication of the size of the scheme comes in Trinity 1969 when we are told that "there are nearly 100 JACARI members actively involved."
Surveys, Vacation Projects, & a Magazine: 1965-71
JACARI collaborated with the OCRI on numerous issues in the late sixties, the main focus being "discrimination in housing, employment and insurance." From 1965-9, JACARI organised a survey of West Indians, Pakistanis and Indians on life in Oxford, "the first complete survey of its kind in the country," which included a voter registration programme. In 1967-8 the two groups began "discrimination testing," documenting cases of inequality to submit to the government, which was drawing up the Race Relations Act Amendment Bill.
JACARI also organised a survey about discrimination in student housing with the OCRI in 1967. This issue had actually been raised in JACARI meetings as far back as Michaelmas 1958 and JACARI had been investigating it on a less formal basis for years. Members were asked to "report cases of racial discrimination by students' landladies." The survey reached a climax in Trinity 1968 when a delegacy formally demanded rules for landlords to be changed.
Around 1965-7, JACARI published its own magazine on race relations, called "New Contact." Amazingly, according to term cards, it seems to have been "on sale . . . throughout Britain and the US." Sadly there are no copies of the magazine in the archives; it is possible that the publication team eventually separated from JACARI as the Michaelmas 1966 term card says the venture had become so large that it needed a committee of its own.
JACARI still organised the occasional appeal. These included a folk song concert in aid of a multi-racial school in Swaziland (1965), an appeal in support of secondary education in South Africa (1968) and in the same year, a collection for The Cherwell Housing Trust. This organisation was the OCRI's housing association, which promised to allocate accommodation based on need not race. It had bought a large house on Iffley Road and needed £1,000 (approximately £14,300 in today's money) to finish converting it into 9 flats.
However, perhaps the most interesting non-teaching JACARI activity of the sixties was its vacation projects in other towns across the country. In Trinity '66 and '67, members were asked to join 2-4 week community summer projects run by the Committee Against Racial Discrimination (CARD) in Southall, Notting Hill, Leeds and Manchester, the aim being to collect cases of discrimination for the aforementioned Race Relations Act Amendment Bill. In 1967, JACARI continued this work in Reading during term time; volunteers went to help out at weekends with: ". . . the establishment of a multi-racial play group run now by local mothers. We have also exposed discrimination in employment by arranging for equally qualified white and coloured people to apply for the same job."
From 1969, groups started to going every vacation to Balsall Heath, a very deprived district of Birmingham, to help run a multi-racial day nursery that an initial group had established. Projects were set up in other areas as well, first in Halifax, then in East Oxford (1970-1) and finally in Swindon (1971). All were based around parties of volunteers running playgroups or children's holiday centres and doing research through home visits and housing surveys. The projects can only have been a testimony to students' dedication to JACARI in this era.
JACARI Teaching Scheme Constitution: 1975
Unfortunately there are almost no records of JACARI's activities from 1971-80, just enough to prove that the society cannot have died out completely during this time. One of the remaining documents is an approved copy of the constitution for the "JACARI Immigrant Teaching Scheme," dated February 1975. The constitution states that: "The aims of the society are to promote racial harmony through education and other available means and to give educational help to those who need it."
It may well have been around this time that JACARI moved away from its other activities to concentrate more fully on teaching. Another surviving paper gives the end of year accounts for 1976-77. These make reference to a Christmas party, a Christmas camp, a summer camp and a youth club. Income for the year (from college JCRs) is £497.35 (approximately £2,800 in today's money) and expenditure is £290.43 (approximately £1,650 in today's money).
JACARI Re-Emerges: 1980s
Records for the 1980s are also patchy but the literature from the 1980 Freshers' Fair suggests that JACARI was now channelling most of its efforts into teaching. JACARI still seems to have been a popular society, with "over 200 members in the University and the Polytechnic." This is the first mention of Oxford Brookes in the history of JACARI; the strength of the partnership would vary in years to come.
Freshers were given a detailed explanation of JACARI's goals and approach, similar to those we have today: "JACARI . . . aims to help provide a fair chance for immigrants in our community." The information also explains some of the nuances of the scheme: how children might lack confidence and feel socially isolated and how the presence of a home tutor might encourage mothers to learn English as well. At this stage, JACARI also taught sixth formers taking O Levels who were struggling with English and the pace of advanced classes. Tutors were introduced to pupils through a form tutor or previous home tutor and lessons took place either at school or at home, depending on the child's age. There was a library for members "containing reading materials, background information and teaching aids."
The social side of JACARI had developed as well, term-time kids' events had included visits to London, Southsea and the Cotswolds Wildlife Park, a Christmas Party and a garden party with punting and a magician. There were also JACARI lunches for volunteers on Thursdays at the Voluntary Services Centre on Alfred Street, which offered a chance to discuss and exchange experiences and a "very good, cheap lunch (only 35p) [approximately £1.40 today]."
JACARI members also participated in several other projects linked to children and education:
A multi-racial adventure playground in East Oxford
A weekly Asian youth club
JACARI was working with the Oxford Council for Community Relations (OCCR) and was helping to teach adults, mainly Asian mothers, at their Saturday school; these women often had severe language difficulties and were very isolated in society
A four day New Year Camp in an old farmhouse in Worminghall, about 7 miles from Oxford; the children were collected and brought back home every day, while volunteers stayed at the farm; the camp's capacity depended on the number of volunteers available; this event was so successful that it was still taking place in 1986; activities over the years included face painting, treasure hunts, cooking, break dancing and trips to Blenheim palace, an old windmill and a dairy farm
A new society called JACARI/ETC, "affiliated to JACARI, . . . [though] essentially independent" featured at the 1986 Freshers' Fair; the group was made up of "students interested in using drama as a way of teaching English to immigrant children"; after a successful pilot project at Isis Middle School in Trinity 1985, the plan was to involve children from several schools and the production for the term was the pantomime "Dennis Douglas and the Detroit Diamond," to be performed at the Oxford Contemporary Arts Festival; it is unclear how long the group continued.
By 1987, JACARI was calling itself a "non-political" organisation, which shows how much it had developed from its activist roots. An application form for new tutors from Freshers' Fair 1989 gives some indication of the scope of JACARI's work. Pupils came from many different places; there were lots of Muslim children from Pakistan and Bangladesh, some from Cantonese or Vietnamese backgrounds and a few of Afro-Caribbean origin. Teaching now seems to have been taking place solely at pupils' homes and volunteers could opt to help with English, Maths and/or homework. Most pupils lived in East Oxford, Temple Cowley, Florence Park and the temporary homeless accommodation in Hollow Way; a few had homes on Abingdon Road, Banbury Road or in Marston.
Perfecting the Teaching Scheme: 1990-Present
Since the end of the 1980s, Jacari has not changed much in terms of its overall direction, focussing instead on being the best it can be. The area covered by Jacari tutors seems to have expanded quickly. By 1994 volunteers were teaching all over Oxford, just as they do today; areas included Cowley Road, Cowley, Iffley Road, Rose Hill, Blackbird Leys, Abingdon Road, Hollow Way, Barton and Marston. Membership seems to have peaked in 1996, when an incredible 550 children from 20 schools were being taught through the scheme. The committee continued to organise regular events for children and volunteers. Jacari seems to have dropped its full name (Joint Action Committee Against Racial Intolerance) in about 1999, following a series of rapid logo changes.
Jacari was still teaching English to adults, mainly refugees and mothers, until at least 1996. Jacari did a lot of work with refugees in particular in this year, working with the Oxford Refugee Council (ORC) to "arrange intensive English classes." Jacari appears to have done some fundraising for the ORC in 1994, but in 1996 the two groups collaborated on a larger scale, along with Oxfam, AICSEC and The British Red Cross to organise a bike ride to raise money for refugee families. 1996 also saw volunteers going to teach traveller children living on a semi-permanent site on the outskirts of Oxford.
An important moment was when Jacari got its first office in New College in 1995, which meant that the society and library no longer had to be run from college bedrooms. The library was still only open for a couple of hours a week or during meetings, but a generous scheme meant that Jacari would reimburse volunteers when they bought books and teaching aids for their pupils, provided that they eventually donated them to the library. Jacari has never stayed in one office very long, moving first to Bevington Road (1998), then to Littlegate House, St Ebbe's Street (2004), briefly to the Old Jam Factory, Park End Street (around 2007), then to Thomus Hull House (around 2008), before finally settling in its current home on Turl Street in 2011.
Jacari tried to improve training for tutors. In 1995 slogan was "All you need is enthusiasm" and enthusiastic members could attend 2 hour weekly meetings on Monday afternoons. Fifteen volunteers even took a training course to become qualified ESOL tutors, ESOL being "the council scheme which provides free English tuition to adult refugees and immigrants in Oxford." In 1997, termly teaching sessions were organised with Section 11 teachers (the staff responsible for helping children who didn't speak English as a first language at school). In 2001 there were plans to increase the amount of tutor training following an increasing number of requests for it from volunteers. In 2004, Jacarifinally introduced a Teaching Committee, whose members were TEFL trained.
Jacari appears to have first launched a website in 1999. The original address was ~jacari, which changed to www.come.to/jacari in 2003, before becoming www.jacari.org as it is at present. The first Jacari email account came along a little later, in about 2001.
And finally, some of the more curious initiatives from the '90s and early '00s:
In 1994, Jacari briefly returned to its lobbying roots, running a letter writing campaign "to argue against government cuts in funding for Section 11 teachers."
In 1998, Jacari produced certificates for hardworking pupils and volunteers. The idea was repeated in 2004-5, but this time only for the children.
The Trinity 2000 newsletter called out to graduating students who would be living in London and wanted to continue with Jacari: "A new Jacari group is being set up in London called Aardvark and they are looking for experienced members to join them." It is unclear whether this project ever really took off.
In 2000-1, Jacari newsletters contained puzzle competitions for pupils. Prizes included an alarm clock, a packet of pens and a watch. It was a generous year—volunteers could claim a free t-shirt if they attended two or more Jacari events.
The position of student "Schools Ambassador" was introduced in 2001. There was one Ambassador per school involved with Jacari, and the role involved liaising with the school and checking that the volunteers teaching pupils from it were being used effectively. It is thought that this system was never repeated because it was too decentralised and made it impossible for the President to keep track of everything.
Jacari hoodies were available to volunteers since 2004. They are now sea blue but the originals were an attractive shade of bottle green.
Jacari Becomes a Registered Charity: 2004
Every student committee worked really hard, but JACARI's membership actually hit what may have been an all time low of 50 tutors in 2003. It wasn't helped by the fact that schools were leaving the teaching scheme because Jacari didn't oblige tutors to undergo Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks. Jacari started to enforce the process in Trinity 2004, inviting volunteers to informal meetings in batches of ten (with free tea and biscuits), but by the end of the term only 20% of volunteers had actually been checked. Efforts continued and a year later the figure had reached 95%. All Jacari volunteers now have to complete a CRB check before they begin teaching.
The number of tutors soared back up again, reaching 150 at the start of 2004-5 and doubling again to 300 through the course of that year. However, for President Jamie Dear, the fluctuations in numbers "demonstrate[d] the difficulties involved with a fully student organisation—a successful year could easily be followed by a less successful year." Two important measures were taken to improve stability. The first was to make Jacari a registered charity in April 2005, meaning that it could be looked after in the long-term by the board of trustees.
The second decision was to put a salaried Sabbatical Officer (a former student on a one year contract) rather than a student President in charge of the day to day running of Jacari. The new trustees needed to raise £40,000 (about three years' worth of salary) in order for this to be viable. The aim was to be able to switch to the new system for the 2007-8 academic year. The first salaried Coordinator, Mona Sakr, actually held the role from 2008-9. Jacari has been run this way ever since and the number of tutors has remained reasonably constant, with around 200 children currently being taught through the charity's scheme.
In February 2018, Jacari became a CIO rather than an unincorporated charity, changing our charity number to 1177211.
Jacari's Relationship with Oxford Brookes
Jacari's records first make reference to members from Oxford Brookes in the Freshers' Fair literature from 1980, soon after the society began to dedicate its efforts more wholly to teaching. However, the archives are patchy around this time, so the partnership may actually have commenced several years earlier. Oxford Brookes is mentioned again in the information from Freshers' Fair 1989 and a third time in 1994. In this year, there was a Brookes Rep, Lavinia Thomas, on the committee, whose role was about "expanding our relation with Oxford Brookes." The literature from '95 and '96 also refers to Jacari members "from both universities in Oxford," but there doesn't seem to have been a representative on the committee in these years.
However by 1998, the Freshers' Fair leaflets had stopped talking about Oxford Brookes. It would seem that the partnership had fallen apart as the university is not mentioned again until the 2005 President's Report, in which President Jamie Dear laments that "Our relationship with Brookes didn't really get off the ground" despite its "huge potential for recruiting volunteers." It seems that problems included the price of a stall at Brookes's Freshers' Fair and difficulties collaborating with STAX, Brookes's volunteering organisation. Fortunately, the relationship has been successfully re-established in recent times. There are now over 70 Jacari tutors from Oxford Brookes, which has its own committee to help ensure that this figure will continue to grow.
Jamie Dear, January 2005
Catherine Avery, October 2012