Hundreds of post-primary school pupils gathered in the White Horse Hotel on Tuesday to tackle ‘Prejudice: Face On!’ as part of ongoing efforts to combat all forms of bigotry in the Derry area.
The gathering was part of a post-primary school initiative within the Derry City and Strabane District Council, which has been running for the past 12 years.
Co-ordinated by Maureen Hetherington, Eamonn Baker, Richie Hetherington from The Junction Community Relations and Peace Building project in Bishop Street, the ‘Prejudice: Face On!’ event attempted to fulfil the aims outlined under the council’s Good Relations Strategy.
The strategy aims to increase awareness of all forms of prejudice, particularly sectarianism and racism.
‘Prejudice: Face On!’ is attempting to do this through the delivery of a project with over ten local post-primary schools.
Approximately 320 post-primary pupils have been involved.
Ms. Hetherington, who was the progenitor of the project while Community Relations Officer for the old Derry City Council, explained: “The growth of relationships and structures for Northern Ireland that acknowledge the religious, political and racial context of this society, and that seeks to promote respect, equity and trust and embrace diversity in all its forms.’ (Equality Commission definition 2008).
“The law around Good Relations comes from Section 75 (2) of the Northern Ireland Act which says ‘Public Authorities are also required to have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion and racial group.’”
To this end 320 pupils from various secondary schools from different sectors got together on Tuesday to work towards these aims.
Pupils from St. Cecilia’s College, Oakgrove Integrated, St. Joseph’s, Holy Cross, Lisneal College, Foyle College, St. Mary’s College, Strabane Academy, Castlederg High, Thornhill College and St. Columb’s College all took part.
Prior to Tuesday’s event the schools engaged in six workshops over six weeks, working with facilitators to explore prejudice in all its forms. Over 300 students, teachers, facilitators and community representatives attended. At the finale, pupils from each school presented their learning through a range of different mediums: powerpoint presentations, drama, music and film among them. It was funded through the District Council’s Good Relations Programme (Executive Department OFMDFM) and throughout the years has had a very positive uptake from all the post-primary schools (of which there are 14) in the new council area with principals and teachers enthusiastic in their support. Schools are geographically located across the urban Derry area, Strabane Town, Claudy and Castlederg.
Although neither ‘good relations’ nor ‘promoting good relations’ are defined in legislation, the Equality Commission defines it as: “The growth of relationships and structures for N. Ireland that acknowledge the religious, political and racial context of this society and that seeks to promote respect, equality and trust and embrace diversity in all its forms.”