Making a human rights decision
I am a mother of four and a Primary School Teacher teaching in a Catholic Primary School setting. I have been open to my family, friends and colleagues in my beliefs and practices since I was a young adult. I was brought up as a practising Catholic and like so many of my generation am no longer. I feel very strongly that the ways of the church are not how I want to live my life. I am now raising my children as non-religious. However, making this decision has led to a series of very difficult circumstances both personally and professionally and we have had so many hurdles in our way.
Baptising your child for a place in a school
Firstly, having to baptise our baby just so he could get a place in school. The “baptism barrier” was then thankfully lifted so we didn’t baptise any more of our children. He began school where I teach and it became very clear that the Principal, a devout Catholic, was not going to tolerate him being “opted out” of religion lessons. The Principal singled out my child, the only child “opted out”, as causing an inconvenience to him and told my child to just sit quietly at his table. My child was most upset as he felt he had done something wrong
We realised quickly that it was time for both my child and I to leave this toxic environment. As a senior teacher in the school, I am not being treated as such, spoken to in a curt, impersonal manner and given last choice in choosing class preferences. There will be no promotions for me into management and I haven’t even tried as I’m at a point now where the thoughts of working more closely with this team makes me feel isolated and vulnerable. The frustrating thing about this is the hypocrisy. Many of my wonderful colleagues are Catholic by default of upbringing but pick and choose which parts of the practice they follow in their personal lives. They play the game of identifying as Catholic to Management that I am not prepared to morally do. They do this for the Management, for the School Church and for their parents or grandparents…but not for themselves. Is this really the best example we as a society are offering to our next generations of how to live your best lives?
Looking for a new school
As a family we turned to another school and then another school after that. We were looking for a school that could nurture our children to be their true selves, to love and respect themselves and others, to be included, to have the same amount of educational instruction as their peers, to not be ostracised in a corner of the room whilst the other children learn faith formation that so often their families don’t even practice. They get sent to other rooms and left to their own devices whilst their classmates go to the church to prepare for sacraments.
We are still looking. There is nowhere to go. I want my children to know that I did my best for them. My children’s rights are not equal to those of their peers. My children’s educational rights, as laid out by the United Nations and the Irish Equality Commission are being violated for starters along with many other rights. Where is the Department of Education? Where is the Teachers’ Union, INTO?
What happens to my career?
As for me, what becomes of my career I worked so hard for. A career my family worked so hard for. Do I stay and rot away in a school until I retire, never reaching my potential as a school leader? Watching my colleagues, who are playing the game, get preferential treatment. Do I leave this school, and to where? Another Catholic school? Or hold out in the hope that someday, enough brave people will stand up and say that this is not what we want for our children or our teachers and we make some fundamental changes to our education system. Do I leave this profession? I feel like a voice in the wind and the more I speak about it the more ostracized I become.
We need divestments of Catholic schools urgently
We need correct, unbiased information out in our communities so that they can make an informed decision as to the future of our schools. Where are the 31% of non-Catholics in Ireland being represented in schools? In my town, nowhere.