Posted on November 21, 2005

Forum Targets ‘Racist Toddlers’

Nicola Tallant, Times (London), Nov. 20

Racism among Irish toddlers will be tackled at a conference for childcare providers in Dublin later this month.

International research shows that children can form prejudices against other races even as babies and pre-schoolers. Workers in creches and childcare facilities will be shown how games and activities can prevent such discrimination forming.

The anti-racism initiative is being organised by childcare committees in south Dublin and Fingal who hope it will provide a blueprint for child carers across the country.

Julia Hackett, a co-ordinator on the south Dublin committee, says it is important for children to acknowledge the differences between people at an early age and learn to accept them.

“Children from a very early age acknowledge the difference between people. We want to bring together the childcare professionals that are working on the ground to develop practical anti-bias approaches that are active, indeed activist, so that we can challenge prejudice, stereotyping and bias,” she said. “Childcare professionals want activities for the children to encourage them to feel comfortable with the differences and similarities between themselves and others.

“By listening to the professionals we will be able to find the best way to integrate these activities and plans into the existing curriculum rather than just having them as an add-on.”

Hackett says the group hopes to be able to provide guidelines to childcare facilities about the inclusion of different nationalities — including providing halal meat on menus.

The conference will be opened by Brian Lenihan, the minister for children, on Saturday. A special report looking at barriers to accessing childcare for lone parents, parents of children with special needs, travellers, asylum seekers and refugees will also be launched.

The research carried out by Fingal County Childcare Committee is expected to show how difficult marginalised groups find it to get their children into pre-school childcare.