Katherine Donnelly, Irish Independent (Dublin), April 5, 2010
ALMOST half of teachers in some post-primary schools have recently reported a racist incident, new research reveals.
Rising unemployment has made racism a bigger problem among teenage students, according to the survey.
It is worse in Dublin, in schools with higher numbers of students from migrant backgrounds and in areas suffering high rates of joblessness.
There are more than 48,000 migrant students from over 160 different nationalities in Irish second-level schools/colleges, predominantly in urban areas.
Marketing company Behaviour and Attitudes conducted the research among members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) on the issue of interculturalism, racism and resources for minority ethnic students.
TUI represents about one-third of second-level teachers, employed in VEC and community and comprehensive schools, as well as lecturers in further-education colleges and institutes of technology.
The post-primary schools in which they teach have a higher proportion of minority ethnic students than those in the voluntary secondary sector, traditionally run by religious groups.
According to the survey, 46pc of teachers in community and comprehensive schools were aware of an incident of racism in the month prior to the survey last year, compared with 40pc of those in VEC schools.
It found the influx of pupils from migrant backgrounds has presented particular challenges for schools, including racist behaviour and intimidation.
African children were perceived to be subjected to more incidents. Racist incidents also occur between different nationalities, particularly in schools with large populations of minority ethnic pupils, with examples of eastern European children taunting African/Indian/Pakistani children.
One-in-three teachers reported that their schools did not have a policy to deal with racism.
TUI deputy general secretary Annette Dolan warned of the impact of education cuts on schools. She said that key middle management posts played a vital role in promoting interculturalism and that the ongoing block on appointments to these positions would have devastating effects.
“While the various cutbacks inflicted on the education sector have had a severe impact on all students, minority ethnic students have been disproportionately hit by government cutbacks,” Ms Dolan said.
“In addition, specific supports for these students have been asset stripped in the Government’s slash-and-burn approach to education over the past 18 months.”