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NI: Cross border conference aims to create human rights friendly schools

Learning about human rights begins in the primary school classroom - that is the message from a high-level, cross-border conference taking place in Dublin Castle tomorrow (Thursday 20 October 2005). The event, Teaching: Learning: Living Human Rights, is jointly hosted by:

Amnesty International

The Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU)

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO)

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

The Irish Human Rights Commission

"Young Children's rights are acutely aware of justice issues from an early age and open to human rights thinking at all levels of their formal education,"says Prof Monica McWilliams, Chief Commissioner, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. One example of good practice which will be showcased at the conference by pupils from Stranmillis Primary School is the Lift Off Initiative, a programme of human rights education that operates in primary schools north and south of the border. The project, which now runs in over 60 schools, is managed and operated by Amnesty International in partnership with the teachers' unions (UTU and INTO) and the support of departments of education in both jurisdictions.

"The Lift Off programme was launched to ensure a real understanding of justice and fairness among Children's rights on both sides of the border", says Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director. "Human rights education is not merely a good thing to do; the UK and Irish governments are actually obliged now to do this as part of their United Nations commitments." Keynote speakers at the conference will include:

Mary Hanafin, Minister for Education and Science, Republic of Ireland;

Professor Alan Smith of the University of Ulster, who has conducted research on integrated schooling in Northern Ireland;

Elena Ippoliti of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights;

Robin Richardson, writer and consultant with particular experience in cultural diversity and race equality in schools.

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