Activists in the Irish National Teachers Organisation have taken a number of important initiatives in recent months.
The union's 1998 annual conference overwhelmingly passed the following motion "In view of the increase in recent years in the number of children of refugees, political asylum-seekers and other immigrants now attending primary schools, Congress calls on the Minister for Education and Science to:-
(i) establish the Refugee Educational Support Service on a permanent footing;
(ii) give the Refugee Educational Support Service the resources necessary to carry out its functions;
(iii) expand the Refugee Educational Support Service and its role to take account of the needs of the children of asylum seekers, migrant workers and those from minority communities and the needs of schools where they are enrolled, and
(iv) provide inservice education for all teachers working with such pupils".
The union has recently published a lengthy pamphlet entitled 'The
Challenge of Diversity', which analyses current provision - and the
lack of it - of an education support service to the children of
non-EU ethnic minority communities. The pamphlet identifies the
strengths of the existing service provision, the problems which need
to be addressed and offers conclusions and recommendations. Through
the pamphlet the INTO identifies the development of inter-cultural
education in the Irish primary education system as one of the ways of
combating racism and xenophobia in Irish society.
(This pamphlet is available from INTO head office, 35 Parnell Square, Dublin 1).
A number of INTO members - through the auspices of the Anti-Racism Campaign and the West Dublin Education Centre - organised a summer inservice course on 'Bilingualism, Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism'. This week-long course was attended by about a dozen teachers and looked at many of the issues and obstacles facing Travellers, asylum-seekers and immigrants in the education system and at ways of making our education system more open, welcoming and anti-racist. This was an excellent course and it is to be hoped that it will be developed and expanded, and that many more teachers will benefit from it in coming years.
These are just some examples of what is possible in terms of bringing the anti-racist struggle into the workplace and the unions in a practical manner. Similar initiatives are being taken in other unions. This is a very important aspect of anti-racist work and must be built and developed on.