Belfast Telegraph

Friday 21 November 2014

World to be told of schools’ success in tackling inequality

A leading Northern Ireland educationalist will take to a global stage next week when she addresses some of the world’s most influential decision makers at the Durban Review Conference.

Avril Hall Callaghan, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, has been invited to speak at a committee session during the conference in Switzerland on Wednesday.

The Geneva event will evaluate progress towards the goals set by the World Conference Against Racism, which was held in Durban in South Africa in 2001.

Ms Hall Callaghan’s presentation will be based on evidence from the Lift Off programme which operated in schools throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic and addresses human rights issues.

The programme, which has been cited as a potential tool in solving some of the world’s most protracted conflicts including those in the Middle East, was jointly developed by the UTU, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, Amnesty International, with support from the Irish Human Rights Commission, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Departments of Education in the north and south.

Ms Hall Callaghan said: “This event — with representatives from India, South Africa, Romania,

South America and the Middle East — will serve as a catalyst to fulfilling the promises of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action agreed at the 2001 sessions by reinvigorating actions, initiatives and practical solutions towards equality.

“Within all of this, human rights must be central and paramount.

“For over 30 years teachers saw first-hand the impact of civil strife within Northern Ireland on the children. They used that frontline experience to formulate the cross-border Lift Off programme with other experienced practitioners.

“Its success is largely based on the fact that it was not designed to teach human rights in faraway countries: it’s about learning new attitudes to each other in our own classrooms, our own schools.

“This has become particularly relevant in meeting the challenges of a multi-ethnic school population.”

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