Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson addressed FÉILTE – the largest educational event in Ireland – taking place online on Saturday with 3,000 participants, organised by the Teaching Council.
“Teachers have an immensely important role encouraging young people to play their part in society where we all have to be global citizens, taking seriously the quality of government, avoiding populism, supporting diversity and inclusivity and focussing specifically on human rights, development goals and climate action,” she said.
“That’s clearly a big task but it is one that all of us in society together and in the co-operative spirit of Meitheal can address for our mutual wellbeing in humanity.”
Mrs Robinson’s attendance at the event was warmly appreciated by delegates.
Addressing delegates live by video-link, Mrs Robinson said: “Globally, we started the year with an ambition to address climate and sustainability issues but this wasn’t necessarily being pursued with a sense of collective purpose. The current pandemic has demonstrated that ‘business as usual’ was not bringing us or our children to a safer world.
“We must seek to come out of Covid with a realisation that we all need to take steps, individually and societally, towards achieving more sustainable ways of living. We must build back better.
“The Government of Ireland is very strongly committed to climate action and this must be used as a continuing opportunity for our schools to educate for a more sustainable future. The Green Schools initiative provides an excellent example of educators supporting learning around issues of sustainability and, in turn, children educating their parents, families and communities on the potential for local action to create benefits for humanity, nature and our environment on a global basis.
“Covid has had a dreadful impact on human rights and it has brought home to us all the fragility of humanity and the world. It has also served to highlight inequality on a global basis where traditionally disadvantaged peoples are suffering more, including women and girls whose education and prospects are threatened in less enlightened and less developed regions of the world.”
Mrs Robinson urged all teachers, pupils and parents to make the climate issue personal in their lives.
“The future we need to be hurrying towards is a healthier one, with cleaner air and less pollution, and a world where we have green jobs, broadband connectivity, working remotely and well from different places. We can only have better lives if we develop ownership and responsibility around the individual and collective actions that can be taken and also challenge those in positions of greater responsibility including governments, businesses, the investment world and the fossil fuels industry to create a better future underpinned by the principles of sustainability and climate justice for all.
“I am deeply inspired by our children and young people who have an innate sense of justice and who also know the urgency for action. I appreciate the value and vocation of teachers within our society, including the influence they bring to bear in educating and guiding our young people around the challenge and necessity of ensuring equity and social justice for all.
“We need to learn more in Ireland about diversity and equality and ingraining it across every sphere of power and influence in our society where much of this process can be, and is being, promoted and achieved through the positive influence of our schools.”
Urging people to maintain resilience in the face of horror, Mrs Robinson concluded her comments by reciting the poem ‘Everything is going to be all right’ by the late Poet, Derek Mahon, who passed away on Thursday.