An English student who works to promote education among the poor in his native Brazil is the brains behind a project which educates international and Galway students about each other’s culture.
For the past two months, primary schools students of the Educate Together School in Newcastle and the ‘Jes’ on Sea Road have been welcoming students from the Atlantic Language School to give presentations on 11 different countries around the world.
Yesterday, the primary school pupils returned the favour, giving their take on all things Irish for the international students of the Atlantic School.
It has led to a fascinating exchange of ideas between the students, reveals Nitlon Clécio, the project architect.
When he arrived here eight months ago, Nitlon had barely a word of English.
He came from a poor district in São Paulo where many of the young people leave school early and take to selling drugs to the rich to make ends meet.
He went to college, studying computer science and later a masters in project management.
He became a consultant, working on projects in some of São Paulo’s biggest international companies who were keen to contribute to educational programmes. He became the bridge between these companies and the charities on the front line who were trying to get young people to turn their back on a life of crime.
“I’m from a poor community. When I started to do courses in university everything changed in my life. Big gates opened. I wanted the same for the children in Brazil. You can see there are very many possibilities as long as you keep learning.”
For the past two years he had worked on a large project and had managed to save up a considerable amount of money.
“I could pay for one house, or pay a car. I said no. Education is the key, so I decided to come to Galway as it was cheapest to do a course,” he explained over a coffee.
“In Brazil there are very many companies from America and England. Companies from China, they too speak English. I lost many projects because I couldn’t understand English.”
Not content to just concentrate on the language, Nitlon began to read as much as he could about the education system here.
He read up the National Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) which aims to “ensure that learners are equipped with the relevant knowledge, and the key dispositions, skills and values to motivate and empower them to become informed citizens acting for a more sustainable future”.
He came up with the idea of ‘The World in the Class’ programme to allow for the exchange of knowledge between young people.
“This exchange is promoting respect for differences, love of neighbours and building a sustainable future,” he explains.
“I love that quote – ‘knowledge helps out, but only love rescues inside’ – I think it’s so true and I wanted to bring that to a reality.”
Nitlon was shocked to learn about the statistics on suicide and the problem of alcohol among young people. He felt the project could show young people that finding happiness was possible in many ways.
It has been an emotional rollercoaster for many of the students from as far away as China, Iraq, Korea and Brazil.
During the questions put to them by the Irish classes, some have been reduced to tears as they speak about the more difficult aspects of their lives. Their presentations cover the usual facts about their countries such as size, population, religion and geography. It also discusses politics, music, education systems and the racial makeup of their homes.
“Every language school has a big opportunity to share knowledge. My idea is to show this is possible and I hope all language schools in Galway will continue this after I’m gone,” he reflects.
“Sometimes the companies only think about the profit and you forget you can do something for your community. Behind a company there are always people who have a heart.”
Next month he leaves Galway to do a whirlwind trip of 16 different countries before returning to Brazil armed with competent English, and a fresh appreciation for Irish culture.
“I have learned so much, not just English, but about the culture of Ireland, Celtic history. The culture is beautiful, the castles, the cliffs, Connemara.”
Pedestrian seriously injured in Furbo hit and run
A man in his 40s is in a serious condition in hospital following a hit and run in Furbo last night.
He was a pedestrian who was walking on the R336 road near Furbo Church, when he was hit by a car around 8.30pm.
The driver of the car failed to remain at the scene.
The road is currently closed with diversions in place while Garda Forensic Collision Investigators conduct an examination of the scene.
Gardaí are appealing for any witnesses to the collision to come forward, particularly any road users who may have dash-cam footage recorded in the area between 8pm and 9pm.
Drug use in Galway at ‘frightening levels’ says top Garda
Use of illegal drugs has reached ‘fairly frightening’ levels across the city and county, according to Galway’s top Garda.
Chief Superintendent Tom Curley said that only about 10% of the drugs in circulation in society are detected by Gardaí.
He said that there had been increases in detection of drugs for sale or supply and for simple possession in the city and county so far this year.
Cocaine in particular was an issue in Galway, he said, but increased drug use was evident in “every village and town in the country”.
In his report to the latest Galway City Joint Policing Committee, Chief Supt Curley said that there had been a 22% increase in detection of drugs for sale or supply in Galway, up 14 to 78 at the end of September.
There had been 108 incidents of drugs for simple possession, up by 15%.
The amount of cocaine seized in the first nine months of the year amounted to €538,838. The level of cannabis seized amounted to €361,872.
Ecstasy (€640) and heroin (€2,410) were also seized, according to the Garda report.
Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) said it was a concern that cocaine had overtaken cannabis for the first time, in terms of the street value of the amounts seized.
Councillor Eddie Hoare (FG) said that the Garda Drugs Unit needed to be commended for the seizures.
Councillor Alan Cheevers (FF) said it was concerning that use of cocaine had escalated.
In response to Chair of the JPC, Councillor Niall McNelis (Lab), Chief Supt Curley said there were some instances where parents or siblings were being pursued by criminals over drug debts accrued by family members.
He added he would continue to allocate resources to the drugs problem.
Up to 20-week waiting period for youth mental health service in Galway
Young people in Galway have highest waiting times in the state for an appointment with the Jigsaw youth mental health service.
That’s according to Galway West TD Mairéad Farrell who revealed that waiting times for an appointment here are currently up to 20 weeks.
“Figures released through a Parliamentary Question have shown there are significant wait times for counselling appointments with Jigsaw, the mental health service which provides vital supports to young people, in Galway,” she said.
“Demand for the Jigsaw service in Galway and across the State continues to grow, however, as a result youths are waiting up to 20 weeks to get an appointment. With young people from Galway currently experiencing the longest wait times at 20 weeks.
“Every expert in child and adolescent mental health will tell you that early intervention is absolutely vital in avoiding enduring and worsening problems in the future.
“Yet, these figures reveal that if a child or young person seeks out care they are in all likelihood going to be faced with extended waiting periods which are simply unacceptable and put them and their mental health at a very serious risk,” she added.
Deputy Farrell said that young peoples’ mental health had been adversely affected during the pandemic – with loss of schooling, sports, peer supports and even their ability to socialise with friends impacting.
“Jigsaw have experienced a 42% increase in the demand for their services and this cry for help from our young people cannot fall on deaf ears,” she said.
“There is also an element of postcode politics, that depending on where you live you may get treated quicker. Some areas have a three-week waiting time while others are left waiting for 20 weeks.
“Uniformed mental health treatment is needed – so our young people can access the care they need, when they need it and where they need it.
“I have called on the Minister to urgently engage with the service to provide a solution,” she concluded.