West Dunbartonshire school pupils are to be taught about diversity and given lessons in how to tackle bigotry and religious hatred.
West Dunbartonshire Council has announced an agreement to work with Nil By Mouth to highlight to pupils the impact of sectarianism right across the local authority. The lessons will be offered to selected age groups in primary and in all secondary schools as part of the curriculum and will promote positive social values and encourage young people to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. It is hoped that every school in the West Dunbartonshire area will participate in the programme before the end of March 2022 and is the first authority wide programme the charity has been involved in. The programme launched at St Eunan’s Primary School in Clydebank as P1 pupils took part in a play based session based around the Neeps and Tatties project. S5/6 pupils from three high schools also met with Nil by Mouth Director Dave Scott to discuss the impact of online sectarianism on their lives.
Councillor Karen Conaghan, Convener of Educational Services, said: “I have been campaigning to raise awareness of the need to begin a conversation on this issue, especially with our younger residents. It is important that we educate our children so they grow up knowing what’s right and what’s not, especially with regards to sectarianism. Hopefully by having lessons and raising awareness in both denominational and non-denominational schools, we can change the next generation to understand the hurt and distress this needless behaviour can have on individuals and their families. There’s no place for racism or sectarianism it in today’s society.”
Councillor Ian Dickson, Vice Convener of Educational Services, said: “I am aware of the charity and the great work it does across Scotland, and it’s a positive step to partner with it in our schools. We must get the message out to everyone that religious hatred and racism will not be tolerated in our schools or our communities. Hopefully these lessons will give children the opportunity to share their views and experiences and if necessary, empower them to recognize when other people’s behaviour is not appropriate and have the courage to speak up.”
Nil by Mouth Director Dave Scott said: “We are pleased to enter into this partnership with West Dunbartonshire Council and have already had more than a dozen schools take up the offer of engaging with us. We are really grateful for the commitment shown by elected members and officials to this programme which allows us to reach hundreds of young people. This programme will allow pupils and teachers to discuss issues around faith, culture and identity positivity and consider the impact of things like verbal and online abuse, graffiti and prejudiced attitudes on individuals and communities. As a charity set up by a teenager, we know the potential of young people to create real change in society, and we also want to hear their views on how best we build bridges higher than walls between people from different backgrounds.”