Saturday 25 October 2014

The kids are alright, and the future is bright too!

Barry Egan witnesses a micocosm of Ireland's future in a culturally diverse school in Dublin's inner-city

Published 24/08/2014 | 02:30

Diversity: Brendan O’Connor and Barry Egan with the kids from the Central Model Senior School in Dublin 1.

Young Ireland. New Ireland. This is a microcosm of the country's future - certainly bright...

Thirty or so smiling young kids, in ages ranging from 8 to 10, from Dublin and all over the world, bursting out renditions of Molly Malone and Raglan Road from their little lungs.

They had barely drawn breath before they were proudly showing off their air-dough statues they'd made of Patrick Kavanagh, Philip Lynott and indeed yer wan Molly Malone.

Brendan O'Connor and I work in the Talbot Street area. So on Friday morning we dropped in on the Central Model Senior School in the local community on Marlborough Street.

It was only a two minute stroll from the Sindo offices on Talbot Street, a street that gets a bad rap.

Once inside the school, a haven of youthful optimism and creativity, we couldn't help smile at the joy of these young people. It was their summer camp, 'Exploring Pathways to Literacy and Numeracy through Arts activities', run by the Department of Education and Skills, so there were chocolate biscuits to go with all the laughter, and the songs.

There was a special kind of magic, which you had to be there to fully appreciate, to hearing very young kids from Bangladesh, Mauritius, Latvia and Romania, as well as all over Ireland, singing lyrics like "on Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge"; or "In Dublin's fair city, where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone."

When we asked the kids what they wanted to be when they grew up, the answers were as funny as they were inspiring.

A 10 year old with hair like Sponge Bob Square Pants put up his hand and said, just like that: "I want to be President of America after Barack Obama."

"I want to be an astronaut," said another little boy matter of factly.

"I want to be a fire-fighter," said a young boy with a Chinese face and a Dublin accent.

Then a little girl shot up her hand and said she wanted to be a pop star. When she added that it was her birthday, the whole class and their teachers and Brendan and I erupted into a room-shaking rendition of Happy Birthday.

She said she was getting a birthday cake with a choccie hedgehog on it when she got home.

Brendan said that he was delighted that the kids picked a song by Patrick Kavanagh because Kavanagh "was a culchie like me."

One of the girls then shot up her hand and said: "I'm a culchie too."

We asked her where she was from. "I'm from Latvia," she smiled.

Brendan and I were privileged to get to see such an inspirational glimpse of 
true cultural diversity in the local community where we work.

It was like a United Nations ad about international cross-culturalism and inclusiveness directed by Bart Simpson, Angelica Pickles or Yogi Bear and Boo Boo.

The classroom at the Central Model Senior School was full to overflowing with kiddie joyfulness and general fun.

One of the kids put up their hands and asked, "Which one of the statues we made do you think is the best?"

Then another asked Brendan: "Can we come on the telly and sing our songs on your show?"

It was one of the most emotionally stirring and fun afternoons myself and Brendan have had in a while.

There was definitely a feeling of some kind of unblemished positivity in that room that bodes well for the future of this country.

I think Brendan and I left the school cleansed of almost all sense of cynicism that adults tend to carry around with them.

Their teachers, Anne-Marie Connolly, Gillian Gerrard and Rebecca Walpole, had guided the children through fun activities throughout the week, culminating in a 'show and tell' for parents on the last day of the camp.

Brendan and I were delighted to have the honour to present them all with their camp certificates at the show and tell.

"There is a very positive atmosphere in the school," teacher Gillian Gerrard said.

"It is an enriching experience for both the pupils and the teachers. We are an inner-city school serving children from the local area, whose parents and even grandparents went to our school.

"We have lots of children who were born in Ireland to non-Irish parents who have come from different countries all over the world to our school over the last few years. We also have other kids who have just come to Ireland from countries all over the world," said Gillian proudly.

She and the rest of the teachers at Central Model Senior School have a lot to be proud of.

Sunday Independent

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