Northern Ireland

Racist bullying 'replacing sectarianism' in schools

Edyta and Paulina Niedoba
Image caption Edyta and Paulina Niedoba arrived from Poland two years ago

Racist bullying in schools is replacing sectarianism, according to the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities.

As part of a new report into the issue, the council questioned children of Asian, black, mixed race or Eastern European origin.

It found that more than half of them were being bullied and that many schools were unable to deal effectively with the problem.

But teachers say they need more help and training to tackle the issue.

Ten-year-old Paulina Niedoba and her mother Edyta arrived in Northern Ireland from Poland two years ago.

Paulina was badly bullied. She said: "They were saying things like go back to your own country."

The name-calling turned violent and their home was attacked.

'Tarnish image'

Ms Niedoba said: "It was a really, really bad time for my family."

Paulina said her school was not at fault as she had help from her teachers, but the report's author, Eoin Rooney from the Council for Ethnic Minorities, said not all victims could rely on support.

He said: "Schools are told how to deal with bullying and many have responded very effectively and treat racist bullying very seriously.

"Unfortunately, others are either unable to deal with racist bullying or are not quite sure how to go about it. In some cases, the schools are unwilling to even acknowledge there is a problem."

Mr Rooney explained the reasons for this could stem from a lack of goodwill, institutional racism or because the "school does not want to tarnish its image".

Jacquie Reid from the Ulster Teachers' Union said the Department of Education needs to lead the fight against racist bullying.

"The department needs to looks at the specific issues - they need to look at good practice," she said.

"They need to put the training and the information in for teachers and they also need some sort of monitoring system."

The Department of Education said it would not issue specific guidance on racist bullying, but said it was working to prevent bullying in all its forms and that any type was unacceptable.

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