Gaisce – The President’s Award Is Proud To Support Citywise Education To Eradicate Educational Inequality In Ireland

Adam Donovan of Citywise Education is Gaisce-The President’s Awards representative on the Shared Island Youth Forum. Adam shares his experiences over the last few months and his hopes for the future of our island here:

Hi everyone! My name is Adam Donovan and I’m representing one of Gaisce’s nominated organisations, Citywise Education, at the Department of the Taoiseach’s Shared Island Youth Forum.

Citywise is a youth education centre that works among disadvantaged communities offering programmes that work to raise the aspirations of young people and support them to reach their full potential. As a representative of Citywise on the Shared Island forum, I hope to emphasise education issues, and more importantly, advocate for change in disadvantaged communities. Through the forum, I hope some work can be done to help eradicate educational inequality in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The Shared Island Youth Forum is convened by the Shared Island Unit of the Department of the Taoiseach, in partnership with the National Youth Council of Ireland and as part of the Irish Government’s Shared Island initiative. It provides a safe space for young people to discuss their common concerns and values for a shared future. The forum is comprised of 80 young people from both the North and South who will meet over the next 12 months.

So far, we have engaged in plenary sessions, break-out discussions, workshops and presentations. The first common interest themes were shaped by members of the first forum event that took place in September at Dublin Castle. This event was such an amazing opportunity to meet many new people from all over the Island of Ireland. It was great to engage with other like-minded young people that were excited to change this island for the better, for future generations. Many people on the forum come from different backgrounds, professions and areas. The diversity of knowledge at the forum was phenomenal, and it makes me very hopeful that this forum will play a key role in shaping the government’s Shared Island initiatives in the coming years. It gives me hope for the future of our island that so many young people are passionate about engaging in the much-needed change and calling out the faults from both governments, North and South.

The second event took place soon after, also in September, with a residential weekend in Corrymeela, Co. Antrim. This weekend allowed us to build on the relationships we’d made with other forum members from the first event, not only becoming friends but learning so much from each other through our conversations. A special emphasis was placed on the Good Friday Agreement, and much information was shared about what are the next steps for the Island of Ireland, following 25 years of the historic peace achievement. How do we continue to move forward and how do we make the island a better place for all? We also heard from guest speakers, which helped inform our thoughts on the key themes for future events.

A key takeaway for me from the weekend was discovering how uneducated I am on some issues in the North that we in the South may not be aware of. It made me think about how we need to change some of our attitudes and opinions on political situations in the North, to be more sensitive to certain groups who may feel unrepresented politically. Overall, a lot of great work was done throughout the weekend in Corrymeela, it was such an eye-opening and insightful experience and one that I will always appreciate.

Over the last two months, I have attended two more events discussing key themes for the forum. The first event was in the Aviva Stadium and focused on Sustainability, the second took place in the Duncairn Arts Centre, Belfast, and focused on Opportunity. Through these discussions, a key focus has been placed on education systems, North & South, and the flaws and the advantages both systems have over each other. On the topic of Sustainability, in particular, key issues have arisen over transport. Transport should be affordable and sustainable and there was strong advocacy for a ‘just transition’ and focus on energy consumption and systems. All these discussions have led to the forum proposing ‘inspiring actions’ which help direct the Irish government’s ‘Shared Island Framework’. In the future, this will influence government policy for our ambitions as a Shared Island.

This experience has been fantastic so far, I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting new people and learning so much more about this special island that we all live on. It brings me so much joy to be able to say that the future of our island is bright and in safe hands.

I’m looking forward to engaging in more forum discussions and events in 2024 and meeting An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar next week to update him on the work of the forum thus far!

Thanks for reading my blog!

Adam 😊

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