Secondary school pupils to learn about Magdalene laundries and mother and baby home abuses

Secondary school pupils to learn about Magdalene laundries and mother and baby home abuses

Secondary school pupils will be taught about the human rights violations suffered in industrial schools, Magdalene laundries, and mother and baby institutions under a new national pilot programme. File picture

Secondary school pupils will be taught about the human rights violations suffered in industrial schools, Magdalene laundries, and mother and baby institutions under a new national pilot programme.

NUI Galway's Irish Centre for Human Rights has published secondary school teaching materials on Ireland’s institutional abuses, which have been created with survivors and school teachers, pupils, activists and artists.

Mother and baby home survivor Mary Harney said: “We must teach children the history of this dark chapter in Ireland and keep that memory alive so that it never happens again.”

The education resources, which include a guidebook for teachers, PowerPoint presentations, lesson plans and as well as a workbook and an online database for students, will be published on Thursday.

Five post-graduate students, who worked closely with survivors and the Clann Project group, trialled their classroom materials with transition year students in Coláiste na Coiribe, Knocknacarra, in May.

“It is our hope that, in the future, the Irish State will incorporate historical abuses into the Irish Leaving Certificate curriculum. Until then, our pilot programme is available to teachers all over Ireland," said Emily O'Reilly, one of the five students who developed the resources.

We have created a two-hour long lesson plan that teaches students about the human rights violations that occurred in Ireland’s institutions throughout the 20th century and continue today. 

"We have emphasised survivor testimony and artistic works by survivors in the lesson plan.”

Adoptions

It comes as new research reveals that 53% of adoptees feel they are perceived differently if they disclose they are adopted.

A report published by Aitheantas, the adoptee rights group, also found more than half of adoptees feel lack of access to identity information and biological medical information has affected them, and has caused “distress” and “embarrassment”.

The Information and Tracing Bill, which would allow people to get access to personal information including birth certs, is currently going through the Oireachtas.

The research, which sought the views of adoptees and their families, reveals how closed adoption and the loss of identity has impacted them and continues to impact them and their families.

Among the recommendations is that the establishment of a comprehensive health screening programme for adoptees should be considered, as well as earlier entry to existing screening programmes for adoptees and their children – given their lack of knowledge on their genetic medical history.

The survey found participants reported having negative experiences when dealing with the relevant agencies tasked with addicting adoptees in their attempts to retrieve personal information. Participants referred to experiences being “awful”, “frustrating” and “very upsetting”.

The report calls for a new agency to replace the Adoption Authority of Ireland and Tusla to improve interactions with adult adoptees and allow for cross-referencing of files to identify illegal adoptions and sibling relationships.

The Aitheantas group has also urged the Department of Education to include the history of forced and coerced adoption within the wider societal context on the secondary school curriculum and believe it should be taught at third level as well.

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