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As of the Third Succession War period, education was very low in some neglected parts of the Federated Suns, especially the so-called Outback, to the point where it was considered a political embarrasment for House Davion.
The Ministry of Education with its limited funds devised the Vagabond School system as a means to spread the limited number of available teachers throughout the Federated Suns. In the early 31st century they purchased a number of dilapidated freighter JumpShips (and DropShips), repaired them, and refitted them as floating schools. They were then sent to areas with poor educational facilities, mostly in the Outback, where they would run circuits between different worlds, transport the region's 12- and 13-year olds to the JumpShips, and give them nine months of intensive education before returning them to their homeworlds. Hundreds of thousands of students were given at least a basic education in this way.
It was said that the Vagabond Schools had yielded impressive results and were the first successful education initiative in the 31st century, even "very successful", yet at the same time they were still insufficient to noticeably raise the literacy and education levels in the worlds along the periphery border. Looking back from a 3080 standpoint, it was said that they were largely regarded as a failure.
One problem with the Vagabond Schools was the ramshackle nature of the vessels used, to the point where they were described as "somewhat dangerous". They were frequently in need of repairs. Several deaths occurred due to technical breakdowns and tragical accidents, and one Vagabond School ship, the Kennedy, vanished entirely in ca. 3013 with over 500 students, teachers, and crew aboard. The tight budget meant no additional ships were put into service. The program was also considered extremely expensive, leading to Duke Aaron Sandoval suggesting a follow-on program in 3032 that would put the budget to better use (the Regional Finishing Schools).
In the Clan Invasion that hit the Inner Sphere in 3050, all Vagabond School ships were dragooned by the military to move personnel and supplies to the front. The program was briefly restarted in 3055, but shut down again in 3057 already.
FedCom Civil War
During the FedCom Civil War four Vagabond School ships were privately funded and operated, partially by Duke Hasek. Three others operated as essentially propaganda machines for Katherine Steiner-Davion, and to transport covert operations teams.
As of 3067 the Vagabond School program was operating again under the aegis of the Federated Suns' Ministry of Education, albeit at a much-reduced scale. Private organisations such as the New Avalon Catholic Church also continue to pursue the program on their own, filling temporary gaps and using the opportunity to teach their own doctrines.
Known Vagabond Schools
- House Davion (The Federated Suns), p. 160 (Education, Culture, and Arts - Vagabond Schools)
- Handbook: House Davion, p. 143
- Objectives: Periphery, p. 23
- MechWarrior (3rd Ed.), unnumbered color plate between pp. 128 and 129
- Handbook: House Davion, p. 115