THE question of segregation of schools in Belfast will continue but not for a very long time. This is because of the ever-changing diverse cultures in the city.
Belfast has a fairly big population of white people from eastern Europe and other places outside Northern Ireland. Africans make up nearly 2% of the population of this city, according to the 2021 census.
Then of course there are Indians, Pakistanis and Chinese, not to mention people from the Middle East.
Some of their children have language challenges because English, Irish and Ulster Scots are the three main languages in the faith-based schools in the North – it cannot continue like this. Schools are supposed to be places of universal ideas and education.
So more attention needs to be paid to refugee and asylum seeker families in Northern Ireland. The more we have in numbers of these new future citizens the better.
These new populations are neutral about sectarian profiles in the classroom. For those who have escaped conflict there is one thing they want: a peaceful coexistence between them and their new neighbours. This includes what happens in school.
There is no reliable data yet about the faiths of newcomers in Belfast and other towns. Is this important? Yes,to a certain level, as it can be used to carry out policy decisions about inclusive education. The children who are new have rights just like those who were born in the North.
So kudos to any policymaker who wants to see a Northern Ireland that lives peacefully because of a neutral army of immigrants – the naysayers don't know what they are missing.
There are still many schools in the North that have no black children. Some don't have any white migrant kid either. Should we expand places of learning in order to guarantee children a place in local schools? Yes please, the more bricks and mortar the better; also more affirmative action in the education sector from primary school to higher education. We are building achievers if we do this because these children are sometimes coming from a wealth of education that Northern Ireland can only benefit from.
Some people argue that government has no money to increase the number of pupils in primary or students in higher learning. They also attack affirmative action by saying that instead of increasing equal opportunity to children it gives too much advantage to minority communities. How these advantages are measured is a mystery.
Once they are inside the Northern Ireland education system the youth from around the world need to be mentored to make the North a better place. Their culture is needed – performance in education, creativity, inventing great products for the future, excellence in sports, all these are benefits that will continue increasing with migration.