Schools excel in advocacy project
Last November Mallow Rotary launched a ground-breaking initiative aimed at encouraging pupils from local secondary schools to take the lead in helping address the challenges of growing up in an ever-evolving modern society.
The Rotary Peace Advocacy Project involved students from five local schools taking a two-day course on Peace Advocacy at the Mallow College of Further Education, conducted by UK-based Rotarian Peace Officer Jean Best.
In conjunction with her husband Keith and the Bradford-based Peace Centre, Ms Best developed a comprehensive set of advocacy/conflict resolution strategies aimed at second-level students. It specifically sought to assist young people as they try to tackle the challenges, one of the most pressing of these being the issue of interacting safely and responsibly with the various social media platforms available to them For example, research has found that almost three-quarters who have been bullied on social media, by text of by email, said they know their tormentors.
Furthermore, such negativity can all too often lead to poor self-image and, in some extreme cases, self-harm. The course tackled a range of other issues including homophobic and sexist language within the school environs, bringing school rivalries together to sort out differences and establishing workshops to address cyber-bullying.
The idea being that the newly trained young Peace Advocates would undertake their own projects, putting the skills they had learned through their participation on the course in to practise. Last Friday's participants reassembled at Mallow College to display their projects publicly for the first time, each group making a short presentation on their chosen topics. Rotary Club district PRO Pat Leogue said the impressive presentations made for fascinating viewing.
"The students made full use of the technology available to produce very impressive projects on a wide and diverse range of topics," he said.
These included introducing the Peace Advocacy concept to their peers; identifying the root causes of stress and suggesting solutions; setting up workshops on bullying; quantifying the amount of time young people spend on social media and suggestions on how to tackle accessing inappropriate online content.
"Another key topic addressed was that of planning to ensure their schools would have fully trained peace advocates in the future and how schools could work peace advocacy into regular curricular," said Mr Leogue.
Guest speaker at the event, Cork East TD and Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton complemented the commitment the students had shown.
He drew comparisons to the responsibilities of his role and the issues addressed in the individual projects, pointing out that "integration, empathy and treating everyone as equal are important for a peaceful society."