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EMU Promoting School

- Visits and Conferences

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Text: Lorraine Heffernan

Visits and Conferences

The Human Rights and Education Summer School from 20th to 21st June 1996 at the University of Ulster, Magee College. "Education for Mutual Understanding and Democratic Participation".

The workshops facilitated by Seamus Farrell and Brendan Hartop at the above conferences promoted the following:
The aims and objectives of the Education for Mutual Understanding theme in Northern Ireland Schools, and of the EMU Promoting School Project, are commensurate with the universally agreed values and attitudes on which social harmony is predicted.

  • a sense of self-esteem both personal and cultural
  • a respect and tolerance for others
  • a sense of belonging
  • a sense of social, political, cultural and environmental responsibility
  • an appreciation of the importance of learning

    (UNESCO/CIDREE. A Sense of Belonging for values for the humanistic and international dimension of education, 1993.)

    It can be anticipated that the new curriculum in Northern Ireland will advocate convergence of the current range of disparate initiatives in the field of human rights, values and conflict resolution skills training in schools. Furthermore a consensus is emerging among those engaged in these initiatives that the long-term viability of all such programmes hinges on a school ethos which reflects the democratic values and quality of relationships onwhich the programmes are based. This is reflected in such terms as "The Human Rights School", "The Pluralist School" and in Northern Ireland" the EMU Promoting School".

    The Pluralism in Education Conference, Cavan from the 19th to 21st of March 1997.Project Staff supported peer mediators in a leading workshop for participants.

    Visits and Conferences in which the project has participated are a reflection of its' place in this broad field of education.

    The Human Rights Education Conference, Dublin from 10th to 11th May 1997. "The Human Rights School". Seamus Farrell also attended the above conference and participated greatly in the proceedings.

    Brendan Hartop attended a two session conference on Mediation in Scotland which was organised by Mediation UK in conjunction with SACRO. The aim of the conference was to introduce mediation through workshop approaches on the various dynamics of mediation within society. The EMU Promoting School Project offered a workshop on Peer Mediation. The second session on the 29th April 1997 in the City of Edinburgh Council's Education Department indicated that there was a need among educators to hear more in detail about peer mediation. The EMP Promoting School Project offered two workshops which placed an emphasis on work with adult school communities and infant children as a prerequisite to peer mediation.

    On the 30th November 1996, Mediation UK organised a day conference on Peer Mediation entitled "It's good to talk". Jerry Tyrrell was a keynote speaker, the other being Richard Cohen, Director of School Mediation Associates in the USA.
    Jerry stressed that peer mediation in Northern Ireland as elsewhere develops within a context of the troughs and peaks of the worlds outside, and in a sense has to carry on regardless. He stresses the assumptions with which the EMU Promoting School Project works:
    1. Enhanced self worth leads to better behaviour and improved learning skills.
    2. Children are capable of helping each other resolve conflicts.
    3. Peer Mediation does improve the quality of relationships and behaviour.
    4. The involvement of the whole school community is vital to a successful partnership.
    He acknowledged the difficulties of dealing with the need for "quick fixes". He underlined that mediation was more about the future than applying blame and punishment. He concluded by saying that "more than one commentator has compared the effectiveness of peer mediators, with the ineffectiveness of their political elders. But it is not sufficient to do this work vicariously through the children. To adapt the famous saying - the skills of our sons and daughters have to be visited on their parents, we can't wait for the next generation to do it for us.

    In June 1996 Fordham Law School, Fordham University New York orgainsed a two week training programme in conflict resolution and mediation for a group of twenty three people from Northern Ireland. This diverse group from the educational, social work, community relations, criminal justice and community work sectors in Northern Ireland experienced a high standard of input from practitioners/academics. Subsequently this "Fordham Ulster Group" chaired by Jerry Tyrrell has met regularly to "promote alternative approaches to the resolution of disputes and conflicts through the exploration, exchange and evaluation of ideas, information and the provision of mutual support.

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