Moving from the Margins to the Mainstream
Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey was this morning one of the main speakers at an open day organised by the Belfast Traveller Education and Development Group Alternative Education Project in Blackstaff Mill.
Speaking from the event Mr Maskey said:
"I was delighted to be asked to speak at this event here in the heart of West Belfast. The traveller community exists on the margins of our community. Sites are hidden away or at the side of a road.
"Economically Travellers are excluded, 70% have not had paid employment in over ten years.Travellers live on average 11-15 years less than the settled community. 90% of Travellers in Ireland can't read or write
"This project has developed because many traveller children do not attend mainstream education. The challenge we face is to have travellers move from the margins to the mainstream. As a republican I know what it is like to be excluded. We cannot and must not allow this to happen to any section of our community.
"We need to look at the barriers which exclude travellers. This project has done much to raise the education standards and self-confidence of travellers. This has been done with the support of the Peace Programme. However projects such as this need to move from short term funding to mainstream support. Mainstream funding will enable us to begin to tackle barriers to education. To put in place interventions to encourage Travellers to remain in mainstream education.
"This will change how schools operate and importantly challenge the attitudes of teachers, students and the wider community to Travellers. To move from the margins to the mainstream means we must make room for the traveller community. We must change how we fund and support programmes and we must welcome Travellers into our schools and communities.
"This project is one step in this direction. I congratulate the students who have worked hard and will receive their certificates. I would like to thank the staff, management and funders of the project who have contributed to this successful project." ENDS