The Significance of the Shared Education Programme in the Lurgan Context
‘….. we change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.’
Lewis B. Smedes
Our young people are our future:
Approximately six years ago I happened to meet two men who were teachers in different schools within Lurgan. Alistair Hamill from Lurgan College and Joe O’Connor from what was then called St. Michael’s College. Something bonded amongst us…let’s name it as a passion for peace making in Lurgan. We started to talk. In the words of Margaret J. Wheatley (in her book ‘turning to one another’) we began simple conversations to restore hope to the future in Lurgan.
Out of these conversations, I would suggest, the Shared Education Programme (SEP) in Lurgan was born.
SEP within the Lurgan context has gone from strength to strength. A few examples:
- Students from both schools are coming together in multiple public contexts within the town of Lurgan. The significance of different uniforms coming together i.e. we don’t lose our identity by being seen in public spaces together…Visual normalisation.
- Educational context plays a role in normalisation within society. We are finding ways to normalise difference in the public square.
- There is a strong relationship building within the student /staff body through SEP in Lurgan which demonstrates an appreciation for difference. Note the critical thinking classes within SEP which, although small in numbers, provides a safe space for debate on difference/understanding/tolerance. It is my opinion that debate may be the way forward to peace making within our post conflict society. Let’s debate.
- SEP is feeding into wider grassroots as well as statutory influence in Lurgan. Lurgan Town Project Practitioners Forum (a forum that is made up of statutory bodies along with grassroots peace practitioners within Lurgan) is becoming mindful of SEP and relationships of trust are being built.
Such is the belief in SEP, Jethro Centre has been able to access external funding from Co-operation Ireland to enable activities to happen within SEP programme which add value to the curriculum based activities. At Jethro we are delighted to have enabled these activities to happen e.g. study tour to Dublin to explore commemoration and two study tours to L/Derry to explore the past.
Together we are building relationships of trust….appreciating diversity…..learning from each other and beginning to build a micro healthy social and inclusive democracy in Lurgan town.
Community Development Officer
Jethro Centre, Lurgan