St John the Baptist Boys National School in Limerick city and Desmond College in Newcastle West were granted their official status as Champion Schools of Sanctuary on November 30th.
Schools of Sanctuary Ireland’s monitoring team of Karen Dervan, Khatira Samim (Sanctuary Ambassador), Hassan Sharif (Doras) and Edel Foster (Mary Immaculate College) were delighted to visit the two schools and meet all of their wonderful students and staff.
In the morning the team visited St John’s BNS and was warmly greeted by principal David Nicholas and invited to join their school assembly. The small school is closely linked to the MIC TEAL project through Margaret Grace’s collaboration with that and nearby St Mary’s National School. Margaret, the TEAL lead in the school and driver of the Sanctuary journey in the school, was praised for her work to date and also credits the teamwork of the close-knit staff. It is very evident that teaching staff and SNAs are all committed and supportive of the initiative and it complements the fantastic work they are doing in the school.
The team was very impressed by the 5th and 6th class students’ knowledge of past and current wars, migrant and refugees fleeing war and their war project linked with a range of curriculum subjects. And the 2nd/3rd/4th class boys (the school is 2nd-6th class only) shared their thoughts and ideas about how to make newcomer students feel welcome and included in their school.
The team’s arrival at Desmond College was met with a culinary welcome! Sanctuary-lead, Bernadine Enright had worked with staff and students to set a full schedule of superb experiences for the team visit. The students, from 1st year upwards, had spent the morning preparing delicious food from across the globe and the team was treated to samples from c. 11 countries. A formal tree ceremony followed, in the main foyer, where the students, one by one, added the names of the 23 different countries represented in the school. A number of students gave presentations in the school library next, about their Sanctuary learning and activities. This part also included speeches by two incredible students who spoke about their direct experience of fleeing their home countries and how Desmond College has supported them since they arrived in the region. Needless to say, all of the monitoring team and staff were in tears listening to their incredibly brave stories. The EAL teacher in the school, Bernadine, demonstrated her fantastic work and resources and finally, the group was treated to a musical show featuring students singing their native national anthems, performing native dances from lots of different countries and beautiful performances from the band and choir.
Desmond College has now become Limerick’s very first post-primary School of Sanctuary. Vourneen Barry, principal of Desmond College, is immensely proud of this achievement and of the school’s long-standing ethos: ‘Our school is a place where every student is known by name, where their story is heard and where they are valued. It is a privilege for us to be chosen as their school, chosen by the student and their family, and to become part of their lives, their present and their future. As a staff, we never take that for granted and every student who walks through our doors benefits from our diverse and inclusive school community’.
St John the Baptist Boys NS now joins St Mary’s NS as Limerick’s second School of Sanctuary at primary level. David Nicholas, principal of St John the Baptist Boys NS reflected: ‘We’ve been working on the School of Sanctuary for over a year now. The SoS was a fantastic opportunity to collate all of our initiatives that we’ve been working on over the years to create a warm, welcome, inclusive environment where everyone feels valued. We will now continue to focus on our school of Sanctuary actions and learning for years to come, hoping that the inclusive culture will be truly embedded within the school going forward.’
View St John the Baptist BNS School of Sanctuary Portfolio HERE
View Desmond College’s School of Sanctuary portfolio HERE