Don't let our children down on racism

30th January 1998 at 00:00
Senior officials from the West of Scotland Community Relations Council claim + that racist incidents in and around schools are seriously under-reported + despite Strathclyde Police reporting that complaints about racist crimes are + up by 61 per cent. They involve bullying, intimidation and assaults. Sajid + Hussein, the council's mental health officer, told The TES Scotland: "We have + no faith in the education authorities to deal with multicultural issues in the + west of Scotland. They are trapped within a subculture of colonial ideas. They + don't seem to realise that globalisation is happening. Education has a + responsibility to a child's future but these children are being let down." Dr + Hussein and his colleagues claim a whole catalogue of racial incidents within + the past year are not being dealt with properly by schools, are not being + recorded as racial incidents and are not being reported to either the education+ authorities or the police. Malcolm Green, the city's education convener, said + that he had had no reports of incidents through the education service and + commented: "If the CRC wish to be as explicit as saying they have no faith in + the system I would ask them to put it in writing and come and see me. It is + obviously a very serious statement to make, especially as we continue partially+ to fund them."Incidents the CRC has detailed include alleged harassment of + Asian pupils by teachers, hints that Asian pupils would be better off at "other+ schools", bullying in the playground and corridor, the deliberate removal and+ attempted removal of Sikh boys' turbans and Muslim girls' hajibs (head + scarves) by white pupils, racist taunts and running fights between groups of + Asian and white pupils. Schools in and around which incidents are said to have + taken place include Holyrood Secondary, Shawlands and Bellahouston academies + and Blairdardie primary.Nighat Bashir, the CRC's youth development officer, + claims that both Asian and white pupils at Bellahouston have formed vigilante + groups outside the school grounds. A Sikh parent confirmed incidents of + interference with turbans and hajibs as well as street fights between Asian and+ white pupils.Jim Cassells, Bellahouston's headteacher, denies assaults have + taken place in the academy itself although he acknowledges there were two + assaults on white pupils outwith the school. In both cases the police were + contacted."A recent meeting with parents also dealt with Sikh youths + terrorising the local primary, setting off the fire alarm," Dr Cassells said. + "Sikh boys are deliberately disobeying instructions not to come through the + primary school grounds on their way to school."The CRC agrees racial incidents + are not one sided but is particularly worried by British National Party + activity in the Bellahouston-Govan area, a concern echoed by Asian parents.The + council says it has been told of BNP activity outside the school gates as well + as outside nearby Ibrox Stadium on match days. "The BNP is rife in the area, + especially around Ibrox where they parade themselves as the Scottish Ku Klux + Klan. Ibrox knows it is going on and does nothing to stop it," a Sikh parent + said.Dr Cassells was unaware of any BNP activity in the area. John Greig, + spokesman for Rangers, said: "I wouldn't say there wasn't BNP activity in the + area and I wouldn't say there was. We don't entertain any of that within the + stadium. But what they do in Copeland Road or outside the tube station is + outwith our control."Gita Skinner, who chairs the black teachers' group of the+ Educational Institute of Scotland, agreed that racial incidents in schools + are under-reported. "We do have incidents reported by black teachers but I am + sure there are more than we know about. The sensitivity of the situation often + means that people will not come forward."Ms Skinner, who teaches at Lorne + Street primary in Glasgow, said: "There are also racial incidents between + teachers which are mentioned within our black group. But it is very difficult + to prove. From my experience, and that of other black teachers, I would say + that bullying was common and that a lot of racism would come under bullying, + though the racist nature of that bullying is not always recorded as such. + Racist bullying among teachers definitely happens also. It comes up within the + group. People relate personal incidents."Also, some white pupils pay more + attention and respect to white teachers than to black. Community racism has a + rub-off effect which might undermine the authority of a black teacher more than+ a white."Willie Hart, the union's local secretary, said he was aware of + "occasional incidents in the past at Shawlands Academy". Ms Bashir said: + "Shawlands Academy now has a multicultural youth council to help resolve + problems internally with teachers and parents. But there is not enough parental+ involvement. It is often only when a child has been harassed or beaten up that+ the parents know there is a problem. Parents must become more involved."Dr + Cassells, who has three black parents on Bellahouston's school board, + acknowledges this is a problem. A recent meeting on multicultural issues drew + only one Asian. An Asian community activist said: "Sometimes there is little + solidarity between different ethnic minorities and leaders don't always get the+ support of the community except during periods of tension or following a + particular incident. We need continued support."But Dr Hussein says change is + frustrated by a strong education authority subculture. "They are bodies with + their own agenda for survival, as are police, housing departments and so on. + But the education subculture is the strongest. They have got this attitude that+ they have been dealing with problems longer than we at the CRC have, so don't+ tell us about it. They just don't recognise that racism is there. " Ms Skinner+ feels the CRC's position is weakened because it has no effective voice in the + education system. "If parents go to the CRC, the CRC can get in touch with the + education authorities. But the school can disclaim anything has happened if it + is not recorded."Action plans on race, such as that drawn up by the former + Strathclyde Region in 1993, are ineffective Ms Bashir says. "The authorities + have developed policies and paperwork but multicultural education is not being + implemented in the schools as a general rule."But Dr Green disagrees. "The CRC + is always inclined to say nothing is being done and such general statements are+ not very helpful. Compared to 10 years ago multicultural education has much + improved and we are far more sensitive to the demands of different faith + groups."With regard to the CRC's claims, I wish to make it quite clear that it + is unacceptabl e for anyone's religious observances or faith to be mocked or + disturbed in any way and we will take a very serious view of such matters."

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