Many Travellers say that the first time they are made to feel bad about their Traveller identity is when they go to school. Previously happy in their family environment – it is when we go into the wider environment that Traveller children realise that for some reason – it’s not always a positive thing to be a Traveller. They can hear slur words and insults about Travellers. They can face bullying and marginalisation.
Sometimes at school Travellers are made to feel education is not for them. They can hear negative messages for example – what’s the point in doing exams if you’re a Traveller. A Traveller child may often be the only Traveller child in a class and can be treated in a negative and suspicious way because of stereotypes.
Many teachers try to counteract discrimination and negativity by talking about Traveller culture and identity in the classroom. Often they ring Pavee Point in the search for resources and books. There is a realisation out there, now, of the negative impacts a mono-cultural education system can have on minorities. People want to improve the situation.
Pupils need to be guided and directed to look at everyone as having an ethnic identity that needs to be valued – and that everyone’s ethnic identity should be respected.
Senator, this is your chance to help to create a positive culture in relation to diversity in schools. It is important that teachers are given the right tools to talk about Traveller culture and identity. It is important that the State sends out a strong message in our education system – Traveller culture is part of our overall Irish identity and needs to be celebrated and promoted.
By bringing Traveller Culture and History into the curriculum in a positive and structured way you are doing both teachers and pupils a great service.
But this approach needs to be embedded into the system – otherwise there is a risk that the approach will be hit and miss or the wrong information gets out. This is why making Traveller Culture and History part of the curriculum ensures that everyone will at least have some basic knowledge of the distinct parts of their Irish culture and identity.
By voting to pass this Bill you are sending out a clear message that education is for Travellers, that Travellers are an important part of our education system and that our education system is one that values equality.
Signed Martin Collins, Co Director, Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre
In 2017 Pavee Point had to close our Education Programme due to lack of funding despite this area being of vital importance to Travellers and Roma.