Monday 20 November 2017

Pupils optimistic about town future

Martins and Patrick at the Self Expression Day in Balbriggan Educate Together NS.
Martins and Patrick at the Self Expression Day in Balbriggan Educate Together NS.

John Manning

THE majority of children in Balbriggan appear optimistic about their future and their place in the life of the town, if a school referendum held at Balbriggan Educate Together is anything to go by.

In Balbriggan Educate Together, as part of their ninth Annual Human Rights Month, all 400 children at the school were invited to vote in their Referendum 'Are our Children's Rights respected in the Balbriggan?'

For the month preceding the votes the children undertook lessons and research in 'What are our Children's Rights as set out under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child? And, 'Can these Rights be enjoyed by us in Balbriggan?' A huge amount of debate and discussion ensued.

All 400 children then voted in a polling station designed and manned by the school's Student Council. Following a count with a strict verification process, again conducted by the Student Council, the results of the vote showed that 60% felt their rights were respected in the town, 40% thought they were not.

Among the reasons cited for the Yes vote were that Balbriggan has lots of facilities for children, the library, the new community centre, Ardgillan Park, the beach, the shopping centre as well as a good public transport service.

Students on the Yes side of the argument said there was plentiful food and water and very little poverty in the town and most lived in 'very good homes'.

There was praise from the students for local gardaí and health professionals and the town's schools and teachers as well as the multitude of sports and community clubs available to join.

Crucially, the students in this diverse school on the Yes side said they felt the freedom to practice their religion and that their race and culture was respected in Balbriggan.

But the picture was not entirely positive, and although in a minority, the No side was a hefty minority at 40% and threw up some issues that those in power in the town will need to consider.

Highest among the reasons why people voted No was the issue of safety. Recounting tales of verbal and physical assault, particularly by teenage children in the town, many children expressed the opinion that they did not feel safe walking around Balbriggan.

The No side also felt that they were never consulted on issues that matter to them in Balbriggan and are rarely given a voice.

Some felt that there should be more facilities for children given the huge population such as a swimming pool. And sadly, this group of students noted that some in the population did not respect their race or culture.

Members of the Student Council will now meet with important figures in the Balbriggan community to discuss the issues that have arisen over the period of this referendum.

Fingal Independent

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