Sunday 16 June 2019

Skerries student delivers a brave speech with Grace

Grace Murphy delivering her speech at City Hall
Grace Murphy delivering her speech at City Hall

Ken Phelan

A young secondary school student from Skerries gave an emotional, courageous and riveting speech recently when she spoke at an event held in Dublin City Hall to celebrate World Children's Day.

Hosted by the Ombudsman for Children's Office, 'Child Talks' presented a series of inspiring speeches by young people about their lives.

Speaking of her own personal struggles in secondary school, and of similar problems facing many other students today, Grace Murphy from Skerries conveyed how her behaviour had changed following the death of her dad, two months previously.

She also spoke of problems in the education system, where she said teachers were not afforded enough time, training or resources to deal with students' emotional or personal issues.

In a speech met with a hushed silence in City Hall, Grace said: 'Soon after my dad died, I became really frustrated with school.

'I didn't want to go to school, my attendance was really bad and I got really short-tempered with teachers - overall it was just getting worse and worse as it went on.

'Most of the teachers would have said I was just lazy and unmotivated, but on the inside all I needed was a short break when I was emotional, help when I missed school and needed to catch up on work, and just overall support from a place I see almost as much as my own home.'

Expressing her feeling that students were not valued by the school system, Grace called for 'every single' student's strengths to be 'valued, used and displayed on a regular basis'.

Transition Year was, she said, the 'best thing that ever happened' her in school, as it allowed her to realise she needed less time 'stressing on exams', and instead focus on 'things that make me happy and keep myself mentally happy' while she was at school.

Grace said: 'There's a lot of teachers who helped me with mental health issues, but not all of them have the training or resources or time to help.'

Speaking of the Junior Cycle Well-being initiative in schools, Grace said that although it 'looks good', it didn't seem as though teachers were getting enough training or resources to carry it out effectively. She also said that Junior Cycle Well-Being failed to address the issues of Leaving Cert students, who were going through 'one of the most stressful times in their lives.'

The Skerries student said: 'I can't really ask for the education system to be changed, but what I'm asking for is that teachers are given proper training in adolescent psychology, and that students are given time to develop and learn about themselves, the stuff they love and the stuff that makes them happy.'

Concluding her courageous speech, which was met with loud applause, Grace said: 'If teachers are watching today, just remember, this might be the first time a student has laughed, smiled or even eaten, it might be the first time they haven't felt alone in weeks...and the Government, please give teachers enough training and time they need to help their students.'

Speaking after the event in City Hall, the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon said: 'As Ombudsman for Children, I have the privilege of hearing directly from young people on a regular basis; through complaints made to the Office, when young people come in for children's rights workshops or when I travel around the country.

'I am astounded by the bravery of Grace and all of the young people who took part in 'Child Talks.' By telling their stories, these young people are showing others how important it is to listen to young people and the meaningful messages they have to tell.'

He added: 'World Children's Day is an important opportunity to hear from children from all backgrounds, with different experiences and to take their views on board.'

Fingal Independent