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Friday, 1 September, 2000, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
Students face racial harassment

Many people from racial minorities in Northern Ireland schools, training and employment centres face harassment and abuse, according to a report.

For the government-funded survey, the University of Ulster interviewed more than 100 Chinese, Asian, African and travellers in the province.

Interviews with parents and children from racial minorities in schools, showed that 13% had experienced physical harassment such as being jostled, spat at or punched.

I hope that a climate has now been created where issues of race and racism are being addressed by policy makers

Paul Connolly
Report author
Of those interviewed 66% reported racist name calling which happened on the way to and from school, in corridors or playgrounds or on the sports field.

The report was entitled Opportunities for All: Minority Ethnic People's Experiences of Education, Training and Employment in Northern Ireland.

It also said that racial harassment in the workplace appeared to be a common experience for a significant proportion of minority ethnic people, although a relatively small sample of people were interviewed.

Chinese people working in food outlets said they routinely faced verbal and sometimes physical abuse.

However, they said they felt forced to stay in catering because of lack of qualifications, poor English language skills and the suspicion that they would be excluded from other jobs.

The report made a number of recommendations, which included:

  • Anti racist teaching in schools
  • More consideration of the dietary and religious needs of minority ethnic pupils
  • Better employment and training advice for those with language problems or who feel alienated.

    The report recommended that the Department of Further and Higher Education, Training and Employment, the Department of Enterprise, trade and Investment, the Department of Education, the education and library boards, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive should take action "in order to improve the life chances of minority ethnic people in the province".

    Dr Paul Connolly, who co-authored the report with Dr Michaela Keenan, said: "It is often argued that racism is simply not a problem in Northern Ireland.

    "However, our report demonstrates that racial harassment is a reality for minority ethnic people in schools and in the workplace.

    "Much progress has been made, but our report shows that a lot more needs to be done.

    Education Minister Martin McGuinness: Concern over report findings
    "With recent legislative and policy developments now underway, I hope that a climate has now been created where issues of race and racism are being addressed by policy makers and practitioners and further progress will be made.

    Education minister Martin McGuinness said he was "concerned" about the findings of the report.

    He added: "Racism and racist bullying is intolerable and has no place in our schools.

    "While I am pleased that the researchers acknowledge progress has been made within the education sector in meeting the needs of pupils from ethnic minority communities, nevertheless there is no room for complacency.

    "My department will continue to work with members of minority ethnic communities to address the comments made in the report."

    Tom McKee, the regional officer of the National Association of Schoolmasters/ Union of Women Teachers ( NASUWT) also expressed concern.

    He said: "There must be zero tolerance of racial abuse in schools. A civilised society must demonstrate its respect of the rights of minority communities to fair treatment."

    The report is the second of five research projects into race and ethnicity issues in Northern Ireland being prepared by Dr Connolly and Dr Keenan.

    Their first report concluded that racial prejudice is twice as common as sectarianism in the province.

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