Watch: Cork students celebrate School of Sanctuary status with special art project

Watch: Cork students celebrate School of Sanctuary status with special art project

Pupils Raul, Darragh, Aaron, Anthony and Nathan get set to add their handprints to the wall at the North Mon Primary School in Cork city which is celebrating School of Sanctuary status. Pic: Larry Cummins.

NORTH Monastery Primary School in Cork city has become the first primary School of Sanctuary in the city, promoting a culture of inclusion for people seeking international protection.

A School of Sanctuary is a school that works on providing a sense of safety for those whose lives may be in danger in their own country, who have troubles at home or are looking for a space where they can feel safe.

To show their commitment to the initiative at the North Mon, each student had their handprint added to a new mural marking the significance of becoming a School of Sanctuary.

Speaking to The Echo, class teacher Frank Carroll said that the students’ handprints on the wall symbolises their commitment to putting the School of Sanctuary status into practice.

“Putting their handprints on the wall made it more real. It’s not just some idea being talked about, they can see it and put it into practice and it’s becoming embedded in the culture of the school and that’s the start of it.

If it’s part of the infrastructure it’s not going anywhere; it’s not going to be forgotten in six weeks or six months.

Mr Carroll said that having this status shows that the school respects others’ cultures, values, and different ethnicities and makes them feel welcome.

“The North Mon is a very famous school in Cork and even around Ireland, but people coming from abroad, they’re not going to know about that reputation that we have, but if they see that we are a School of Sanctuary, they know then that shows that they do feel welcomed.

“If you look at the Irish, traditionally we’re known as the land of a thousand welcomes and this is a new way of showing that welcome to the new Irish that are coming in.

Junior Infant pupils Sophia Morey and Dominic Long with teacher Ms Connolly and Colin Daly, Deputy Principal mark the establishment of the school as a 'School of Sanctuary'. Pic: Larry Cummins.
Junior Infant pupils Sophia Morey and Dominic Long with teacher Ms Connolly and Colin Daly, Deputy Principal mark the establishment of the school as a 'School of Sanctuary'. Pic: Larry Cummins.

“We weren’t made feel as welcome down through generations when we went abroad so we want to give the new Irish coming here the best possible welcome and integrate them as seamlessly and as quickly as possible so they do feel welcome and part of society.

The school is the centre of most societies, so if it starts here and spreads from here and we do our bit that’s the main thing.

Vice-principal Colin Daly said that the students had “a fantastic day” of hand-painting and all came together in solidarity and in support of the initiative.

“We’re all very busy as a school with different classes and different objectives and short-term goals and long-term objectives, but we all came together under this cause and we all had one goal which was to highlight the School of Sanctuary and to highlight that we are a school that welcomes everybody and we’re a school that values and appreciates members of all cultures and countries and they’re all welcome under our crest.

Pupils Conor and Levi O'Sullivan and Mr Colin Daly, Deputy Principal put their colour painted hand prints on the wall. Pic: Larry Cummins.
Pupils Conor and Levi O'Sullivan and Mr Colin Daly, Deputy Principal put their colour painted hand prints on the wall. Pic: Larry Cummins.

“At times, unfortunately, families and children are going through their own struggles and they might not necessarily have the trust of certain fractions of society, but the school has now made a pledge and has committed to being the School of Sanctuary and to being a safe and welcoming place,” he said.

Mr Daly said that while it is usually teachers who are making commitments to various school-related initiatives, that this was a child-led initiative with the students leading the initiative and committing to being open and friendly to anybody who comes through the school gates.

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