Good morning ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you here today at the annual 2018 Pinewood Senior High School assembly. Allow me to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of this land on which we gather here today. I pay my respects to the elders past, present and future.
My name is Riya Patel and I will be discussing an issue which affects 7 in 10 teenagers in Australian schools. Yes, I’m talking about racism. I still remember my best friend’s teary eyes upon hearing racist comments from our peers. There are no words to describe how it felt, all I can think of is my friend’s disheartened face. She became extremely withdrawn, even more detached. From that point, I decided there needs to be a change. As time passed, the more I noticed how lightly the teachers were taking this serious issue. Racism is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed by all teachers, students and even parents.
School should be a haven; students should feel accepted no matter which race they may come from. Racism causes distress to the students experiencing it. It forces them to feel isolated and alienated. Can you imagine coming to school and suffering explicit forms of racism on daily basis? From name calling, teasing and even verbal and physical abuse. These are just some of the common examples of open racism. There are many consequences for students who face racism. New South Wales Government’s project ‘Racism. No Way!’ outlines some of these. One of the biggest setback, is students feeling afraid of going to school. They have trouble studying and concentrating in class, which leads to falling behind in schoolwork hence, achieving lower marks in exams. Regular occurrence of such racism has extreme effects on the student’s health. They undergo feelings of sadness, anxiety and even depression. They withdraw from being social and become more self conscious.
The school management needs to take matters more seriously and should take action towards eradicating racism among students. They need to find solutions that work, actually acknowledging and addressing the issue instead of avoiding it. Written policies do not work we need to make them implementable by having all hands on board. Teachers and the school need to develop students’ attitudes by teaching them to learn to respect and value cultural differences. Students need to be more alert, any racism seen or heard should be reported immediately.
Although, its not just up to teachers and the school, parents also need to lend a hand in the eradication of racism. Parents should talk to their children and maybe be bring a complaint to inform the school. Keep in mind people aren’t born racist. Even at a very young age, babies are able to recognise a face differently if it belongs to someone of a different race. Although noticing a difference is not the same as having negative opinions about a race. This type of judgement must develop over time, depending on their social and physical environment that may endorse these biases. Is their parents who indoctrinate them in believing their racist ideas or attitudes. This needs to be stopped without any delay.
To finish it off, I would just like to remind you all that racism causes students to feel isolated and alienated. It causes setbacks for them to perform to the best to their ability. It causes severe stress and even depression in some cases. We need to eradicate this problem in order to create a safe and healthy learning environment. Teachers and schools need to implement harsher punishments. Parents should discuss such issues at home.
Like Muhammad Ali once said “Hating people because of their skin colour is wrong and it doesn’t matter which colour does the hating. Its just wrong.”
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