Racism and Xenophobia – How are they being talked in schools?

Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance attack the most basic notion of human rights — that everyone is equal in dignity and worth. They are an affront to basic human dignity. Never­theless, they occur in every country of the world.

When people are socially excluded, the possibility of securing commitment to constructive participation in civil so­ciety is significantly diminished. This leads to assumptions that ethnic ster­eotypes are the determinants of an in­dividual’s character. What is worrying is that certain individuals believe that race is the primary determinant of hu­man abilities and that a certain race is inherently superior or inferior to oth­ers. It is appalling that people should believe that their fellow human beings are to be treated differently according to their racial designation.

Aside from the Action 3 EU Youth Programme, stating “All differ­ent. All equal” whose aim is to target the younger generation, further steps must be taken to increase the par­ticipation rate of students especially from disadvantaged and marginal­ised communities in the formal edu­cational system. It is the right time for respective competencies to seek to ex­tend and promote among young peo­ple more active learning, focused on the needs of civil society in facilitating their engagement in voluntary activ­ity and their involvement in cultural, sporting and recreational activities and validate their work, while taking into account the needs of the labour market.

We must increase efforts to combat racism and xenophobia, pro­mote the full integration of immi­grants and ethnic minorities into our society, whilst respecting cultural and religious diversity, recognizing and building awareness on their positive contribution and potential, and help bring about solidarity and mutual un­derstanding.

Though actions started being taken, we are still miles away from be­ing effective. It is time to adopt more efficient and direct policies on migra­tion and integration in our education­al system in the interest of the current and future population that is based on the recognition of fundamental so­cial rights of current citizens as well as newcomers, and that is embedded in strong development policies.

Most educational institutions are ill-equipped to step up the fight against racism and xenophobia. In­formation pertaining to these is lim­ited and not generally available to all students. Educational systems do not strive to break down misconceptions held by students about irregular im­migrants, ethnic minorities and other socially excluded people. The issue of racism and xenophobia is very often ignored in our educational institu­tions and not enough is done to make students aware of these social ills. If our educational system truly believes in the importance of holistic education and lifelong learning, it is imperative to stress that racism and xenophobia only serve to increase intolerance and narrow minds.

We are convinced that these efforts should also include the pro­motion of dialogue and cooperation between the different segments of so­ciety at the local and national levels, including dialogue and cooperation between different cultural, ethnic and religious communities.

Unfortunately, students, mainly post-secondary and tertiary ones, are not given precise informa­tion on the matter and for many in­citing racial hate is a right, which if stopped is an infringement of the basic human right. In fact, whilst express­ing concern over the rise of extremist and xenophobic parties and growing public acceptance of their views, the European Parliament, in a resolution adopted on the 27th of January 2004, welcomed the declared intention of the Luxembourg Presidency to restart the stalled discussions on the proposal for a Council Framework Decision on combating Racism and Xenophobia, and urged the Council to reach agree­ment on a ban on incitement to racial and religious hatred throughout the EU while preserving legitimate free speech.

As youth, we are appalled at the racist and xenophobic comments we come across. Racism and xeno­phobia need not be as direct as the harassing of irregular immigrants, ethnic minorities or socially excluded people and can be as subtle as the cir­culation of offensive material.

The mass media should en­sure that these messages also pass through to the general public and not merely seek sensationalism which leads to misconceptions on such a fundamental matter. As Francis Bacon once said:

“Men’s thoughts are much according to their inclination; their discourse and speeches according to their learning and infused opinions; but their deeds are after as they have been accustomed.”

Holistic education is the only key to success. Is action going to be taken now or are we willing to risk the consequences not taking this es­sential step?

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