The Concern Debates have been an important and fun part of the school curriculum for more than 30 years.
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The past year has been a challenging one for the world. Brutal attacks, war and divisiveness filled our airwaves. However, don’t believe the myth of the snowflake generation – young people across Ireland are rising. They’re learning, they’re debating, they’re campaigning – and our Active Citizenship team is giving them the tools to do it!
From organising debates for 500 eager student orators to facilitating a pioneering national food waste campaign, Concern’s Active Citizenship team certainly has had an “active” year! Now, as schools break up for the summer, we take a look back on our activities with some 5,000 students and teachers across the country.
This school year, 120 secondary schools and over 500 students took part in our national Concern Debates competition. These talented young speakers took on motions covering issues ranging from the eradication of HIV and AIDS and climate change to terrorism and poverty.
After months of head to head battles in schools across the country, the final took place on May 4th (be with you!) in the Helix in Dublin. Teams from St Mary’s CBS Carlow and Sacred Heart Clonakilty were joined by 400 supporters as they battled it out for the champion’s title, taking on the challenging motion: “The Trump Presidency will be a ‘blessing in disguise’ for Africa”.
Following a rigorous and inspiring debate, the motion was defeated and Sacred Heart Secondary School were crowned this year’s winners! The four winning Corkonians will be travelling to Malawi this July to visit some of Concern’s programmes and see first-hand the impacts of climate change and poverty there.
This year, over 2,000 primary school students aged nine to twelve years old also got in on the action, taking part in our junior debating programme, the Concern Primary Debates.
Over 15 hotly contested regional finals took place across the country. The motions were challenging and, at times controversial, most notably a fiercely debated final in Kilkenny between Scoil Mhuire N.S Gowran and Light of Christ N.S Dunmore East who took on the daunting motion: “Water charges should be reintroduced in Ireland”!
At every contest we saw quick-thinking rebuttals, impressively researched points and impassioned pleas from both sides. To see such quality debating skills and knowledge from eleven and twelve year olds was simply incredible. The future is bright!
Did you know that we throw away up to €700 of food per family in Ireland each year? And it’s not just about wasted money and landfill growth – if food waste was a country, it would actually be the third biggest contributor to climate change!
That’s why the students from this year’s Concern Campaign Academy have created a powerful new campaign to take action on the growing food waste crisis in Ireland. Hailing from a range of schools across the country, these young activists came together for a week in Concern headquarters to learn about social justice and development issues and how to campaign for a better world.
They then conceived a food waste campaign, and brought it back to their schools, local communities and also online through a Facebook page. Together, our passionate Campaign Academy alumni have run workshops for 2,500 of their peers, changed school policies on compost bins and have even signed MEP Nessa Childers up to their campaign!
We want to try and make a change even if it only starts in our school. Every idea comes from somewhere and every great scheme, every great triumph in world history comes from struggle and the hope of a better world. No matter how small our voices may appear, we will be heard."
The 2016/17 year kicked off with a bang as we introduced the Hunger Heroes, Ireland’s newest social justice warriors to the world! This innovative primary school programme empowers young caped crusaders to tackle issues such as food waste and its link to climate change, while fundraising to support Concern programmes focusing on hunger and poverty.
Over 700 students across Ireland received Hunger Hero certificates, with a special number of students receiving exclusive capes. The activities our Hunger Hero schools took part in ranged from food waste audits of staff rooms and peer to peer workshop to art workshops and letters to local councils regarding public transport.
After a year full of discussion, debate and campaigning, we think the 5,000 students we’ve worked with are due a well-deserved break! We wish all of our schools, educators and students a happy and healthy summer.
Concern’s schools mailing will be reaching schools this August full of activities for teachers and students to sign up for. Feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you or your school is interested in getting involved in any of these programmes.