Saturday 22 October 2016

Editorial: Schools must help pupils celebrate diversity

Published 02/07/2014 | 02:30

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FROM their first day at school, an essential lesson for all children to learn is the need to be respectful of other people.

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The pupil in the next desk who may be of a different colour, faith, nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or ability level will be an example of the rich diversity of people in the world outside the school gates. If that person is from a minority group, all the more reason to ensure that he or she is not alienated and is made to feel as equal in the community as anyone else.

Belatedly, the education authorities have been waking up to their responsibilities.

For over a decade, resources have been made available for pupils with special needs in mainstream classrooms, although it took some high-profile legal actions in the late 1990s for that to happen.

School-based initiatives around issues such as sexual orientation, racism and bullying also promote best practice with regard to respecting difference

The Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector was set up to tackle the religion issue. It sought to answer the basic question: how is the system, where nine in 10 primary schools are Catholic, run to cater for the changing face of society – whether it is the growing number of Irish families falling into the "no religion" category or the new Irish citizen – from an array of ethnic and religious backgrounds?

One way is through creating more school choice, by releasing some Catholic schools to other patrons. Progress has been slow on that front.

The other way is to ensure that, within Catholic schools, difference is celebrated and not alienated. Many schools are showcases of best practice, and the new progress report on the Forum is intended to highlight the way for others.

Yesterday's report is not intended to be prescriptive, rather to act as a guide. It is time for everyone involved to look into their hearts and see if they can become more inclusive.

Food poverty solution has global potential

IT is one of the great and enduring scandals of our times: the number of people who go hungry compared with the vast amount of food in the western world that it literally dumped. Foodcloud, a non-profit organisation born of "idealistic optimism", has come up with an innovative solution that goes some way toward bridging that divide.

Its founders say that in Ireland 450,000 people suffer from food poverty while one million tonnes of food are wasted every year, dumped by supermarkets, restaurants and other outlets because it is nearing its 'sell by date' or for other reasons that have nothing to do with its quality.

Started by two young Trinity College students, Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O'Brien, the solution to the problem is what they call "a snazzy app" which matches businesses with good food which they no longer want with charities and non-profit organisations who want food to distribute to the needy.

Their mission statement is short and sweet: "Hello, we're Foodcloud and we're here to reduce poverty, reduce waste and help restore that good old Irish community spirit based on shared food."

It is a simple but commendable aim and one that deserves all our support.

In an ideal world Foodcloud will not only provide a solution for those with surplus food in Ireland, but will spread far beyond our shores.

These two young women, based in the Trinity Enterprise Centre in Dublin, are to be commended for developing their idea of how to match those with surplus with people in need and their execution of that idea.

Irish Independent

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