I spent some time last week at Riddel Hall, Queen’s University new centre for excellence in business management.
Located off Stranmillis Road the venue is a wonderful mix of the old and the contemporary in a very harmonious relationship.
Congratulations are due to all who drove this project.
Eamonnmallie.com is truly thankful for the unstinting support we receive from Queen’s in our efforts to deepen our listeners’, viewers’ and readers’ knowledge on given subjects.
I would posit, the pool of expertise residing in Queen’s University is dramatically undersold to the outside world.
The unlimited reserves of research and scholarship in the corridors of Queen’s far too rarely end up in the ownership of the public.
The previous Provost of Trinity College in Dublin implemented a scheme to link the college with inner city working class areas.
The current vice chancellor of Queen’s, Professor Peter Gregson informs me some of his students are now going into poor Protestant districts like the Shankill to work with children.
There is also a homework club operating which I need to further explore.
All of this is commendable and should be expanded and with a little imagination could grow a lot more.
However laudable Queen’s efforts are on this front there is a huge hole in ‘the body education.’
Former Irish President and Queen’s graduate Mary McAleese was guest speaker to mark the restoration of Riddel Hall.
Former banker Alan Gillespie spoke along with Tom Lynch and the Chancellor.
Did one of them mention the Shankill, Kilcooley, Tigers Bay, Rathcoole, New Lodge or Ardoyne? Not a word?
Do these places register in the consciousness of universities? I didn’t detect this: why do educationalists and the middle classes not realise education should not be about self aggrandisement but about using one’s talents and opportunities to improve the lot of our fellow human beings?
Who is recognising that secondary schools servicing many Protestant areas are numerically and physically crumbling with the brighter children being snaffled by the numerically better resourced grammar schools?
When I asked Queen’s Vice Chancellor Gregson about the inability of young men especially from areas like the Shankill to gain access to his university he spelled out he is not responsible for education policy in Northern Ireland.
He is a powerful voice and ought to become a champion for the voiceless.
I have made this point before.
I refuse to accept that children on the Kilcooley Estate in Bangor are less intelligent than children reared along the Malone Road in south Belfast where the success rate in the Transfer,11 Plus-Plus or its equivalent is ninety per cent.
I know you will argue “but, but but – the parents have no interest in education, these are broken homes and so on.”
This is the classic Unionist argument used to lash Sinn Fein education ministers… “Pump more money into primary schools” is the Unionist mantra.
If there are too many schools in these areas with limited resources spread too thinly, all the primary schools are suffering as a result.
Have the politicians the cojones to close some of these primary schools?
I hold to the view that what is continuing to obtain to this very day in Northern Ireland is an educational infrastructure which was geared for children over half a century ago.
Minorities should not hold sway over majorities in society.
Having attended a rural primary school, a city primary school, a secondary school because I didn’t transfer, and eventually moving to a Grammar school backed up by the experience of my own children – I think I know where discrepancies rest in funding for education.
We all know where the big lobby impacts and it is not in secondary schools.
That is not to dismiss the fantastic leadership obtaining in some Protestant and Catholic Secondary schools.
Once upon a time Northern Ireland had an engineering industrial base.
We ended up with a divided society regardless of the ‘big lie’ that we have a ‘great education system.’
With the demise of our engineering/technical industry, disappeared practically all our technical expertise.
In the Sixties we had technical colleges servicing industries-those dissipated over time and so did so many skills.
So where the fibre of a society is so damaged how can young Protestant youths be rescued from the despair and the scrap heap?
Is it not time for a complete rethink educationally?
This side of spotting talent in those impoverished neighbourhoods and fast tracking them into further education, are these young people not destined for oblivion?
How relevant is any centre of excellence going to be to this forgotten generation?
How are we going to find pathways into higher education for today’s and tomorrow’s youth with the current education infrastructure proving inadequate, coupled with a worsening economy?