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UN to showcase education pack as best guide to overcoming divided community

UTU leader available for interview

An education pack developed by Amnesty International in partnership with the Ulster Teachers’ Union (UTU) and the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) is to be showcased by the United Nations tomorrow (Wednesday 22 April) as an example of how best to bridge the divide between the two communities.

The pack called Lift Off will be presented to many of the world’s influential decision makers at the Durban Review Conference in Geneva this week.

The Geneva event will see how far the international community has come in implementing the goals set by the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001 – and Lift Off will play a key part in how the debate moves forward.

The pack itself is a series of three education books aimed at educating primary school pupils across Ireland – North and South – about their human rights, with one book for Primary 1-3, one for Primary 4-5 and the third for Primary 6-7.

It uses the experience gained in a Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland context, to encourage attitudes of respect, mutual understanding and equality both within the school community as well as within the wider local and global contexts.

Avril Hall Callaghan, General Secretary of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, will be addressing a committee session at the Conference tomorrow to explain the principles behind Lift Off.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International Northern Ireland Programme Director, said:

“Lift Off has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of Children's rights throughout Ireland and indeed throughout the world.

“It’s not just in the simple message of respecting one another. Research has consistently shown that where human rights forms a key part of the curriculum school attendance increases, behaviour improves, pupil language becomes more sophisticated and their respect for the school environment and their fellow pupils grows.

“This project has the potential to make a real difference to everyone in their community.”

Avril Hall Callaghan added:

“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 agreed in 2001. Within these, human rights must be central and paramount.

“For over 30 years teachers saw first hand the impact of the conflict within Northern Ireland on Children's rights. They used that experience to formulate the cross border Lift Off programme with other experienced practitioners.

“Its success is largely based on the fact that it is designed not to teach about human rights in far-away 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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