As Prince Harry and Meghan Markle greeted the public on the tarmac at Dubbo airport, a small boy caught Prince Harry’s attention.
Five-year-old Luke Vincent was wearing his school uniform, a blue and white checkered hat, and a pair of green goggles. The moment he saw the prince, Luke, with no hesitation, hugged him. He then started to play with Harry’s beard, stroking it while looking back and forth between Harry and the woman holding his hand. When the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle bent down to greet him, Luke gave her a bunch of flowers, before throwing his arms affectionately around her.
After the encounter, which has gone viral all over the world, Seven News spoke to the woman who was crouched down behind Luke, holding his hand as he casually stroked Prince Harry’s beard.
Anne van Dartel is the principal of Buninyong Public School in Dubbo – the school Luke attends.
“Luke loves beards and Luke’s favourite person in Santa Claus,” she explained.
Anne said she was worried when Luke first reached out to stroke Harry’s face – particularly because the school students had been warned against touching the royals.
“Definitely I was very concerned when he started rubbing Prince Harry’s face and his hair,” she said.
“Prince Harry was completely gracious and was so polite, and realised what was happening with the situation with his beard.
“The way that Prince Harry and Princess Meghan interacted with him was just delightful.”
Watch the beautiful moment here. Post continues after audio.
But while international headlines are praising the Duke and Duchess for their kindness and patience with little Luke, there’s another story going unacknowledged: that of Principal Anne van Dartel, her staff, and lots and lots of kids like Luke.
Australian media is routinely saturated with stories about our broken education system, and the way teachers are failing our kids, academically, socially, and psychologically. There’s a huge gap between the weakest and the strongest students, we’re told, because teachers don’t have the skills to help the kids who are struggling.
Adrian Piccoli, the former NSW Education Minister, previously said the teaching profession had become a “joke”.
“I keep hearing stories about students coming into schools and principals saying that they are not up to scratch,” Piccoli said at an education leaders’ conference in 2016.
“There is this joke, I couldn’t get into physiotherapy so I went into teaching. That is just unhelpful for that person and it’s unhelpful for the profession,” he said.
Earlier this year, Coalition backbencher Andrew Laming called out teachers for their shorter-than-average work days and generous holidays.
“Teaching needs to operate like other jobs, with the same hours, days and weeks as the rest of the economy,” he told Fairfax.
If there’s a problem with our education system, many say, it’s “teacher quality”. We’re lagging behind the rest of the world in a number of areas, but before you suggest the reason might have something to do with the curriculum or funding or the structure of our education system – none of which teachers actually have any control over – stop.