A GROUP of 24 pupils and three teachers from St Flannan’s College took part in Euroscola in Strasbourg this week.
The pupils won their place on the Euroscola programme when three of the fellow pupils, Cormac Molloy, Charlie Whyatt and Eoghan Mulcahy, won a mock European Council debate in Dublin last March. The prize was the opportunity to bring 24 pupils to the Euroscola programme in Strasbourg on September 24.
The Euroscola programme gives the participating pupils an opportunity to see what it would be like to be an MEP. Its aim is to bring together young people from a variety of different countries and speaking a variety of languages. Throughout the day-long programme, participants are encouraged to make full use of their knowledge of EU languages other than their own to communicate with the other pupils. The participating pupils get an opportunity to see the issues they discuss from different points of view and to think again about their own opinions.
Donal Vaughan, a teacher in St Flannan’s College, was one of three teachers from the school who accompanied the pupils on the trip last Friday.
“We travelled over to Frankfurt-Hahn on Thursday and had a bus organised to bring us to Strasbourg. The Euroscola was a one-day event and it gave pupils the opportunity to discuss and debate issues relevant to young people in the European Union,” he said.
The 550 pupils representing 22 EU countries, including the St Flannan’s College group, sat in the hemicycle of the European Parliament where the MEPs sit during European Parliament sessions.
“The day started with a questions-and-answers session, where the pupils had the opportunity to ask European officials questions, covering all different areas of European Union policy. A number of our pupils asked questions and did very well,” Donal added.
Two of the St Flannan’s group, Jamie Tuohy and Sarah Broderick, also introduced their school, Ennis and County Clare to the other Euroscola delegates in French. “They had to address the crowd from the podium at the top of the parliament. They were well rehearsed and did so well. It was a great opportunity for them and they did us proud,” he said.
All 550 participants were then broken up into working groups, with pupils from different countries in each group. The groups discussed a range of European issues, including what measures should be used to combat youth unemployment, how our fellow citizens involvement in the EU could be increased, what they could propose to bring Europe closer to the people, what action should be taken to encourage sustainable development and other topics of relevance to EU members.
“Each working group gave recommendations arising from their groups’ discussions. Their ideas were thought-provoking and the subject of considerable debate in the session that followed. The whole area of graduate employment schemes and apprenticeships was high on the agenda for the participants. On the subject of democracy and voting within the EU, there was a recommendation to bring the voting age down to 16, which was knocked on the head very quickly by officials, who chaired the discussions on the various topics,” Donal explained.
One representative of each working group presented their groups recommendations, including Alex Escorcio 17, from St Flannan’s College, who was chosen as president of his working group. “It was a wonderful platform for him and a real confidence builder. I think he was very good and gained a lot from the experience,” Mr Vaughan commented.
Another of the St Flannan’s group, Mark Ealie, also won a quiz on the EU at the session, which landed him a Euroscola Cup. “All 550 pupils took part in this quiz, broken into teams of three or four, and the level of knowledge was strong, so Mark and his team did very well,” Donal added.
On Saturday, the group were brought on a guided tour of Strasbourg and had plenty of time for sightseeing and shopping. The group flew back on Saturday night.
Donal said that the pupils found the Euroscola event a fantastic experience. “They were exhilirated and enthused by the event and felt it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It also opened their minds to wider European issues and how they effect everyone, including the youth.”
Donal and the other two St Flannan’s teachers who attended were observers for most of the programme but also involved themselves in discussions with teachers from other countries on how best to incorporate EU studies into school life and programmes.
The pupils who travelled out were: Cormac Molloy, Charlie Whyatt, Eoghan Mulcahy, Colma Cox, David M. Adam, James Malone, Sarah Broderick, Melissa Power, Alex Escorcin, Jamie Touhy, Tom Keleher, Cian Cooke, Mark Earlie, Cathal O’Halloran, Philip McGuane, Diarmuid Killleen, Kelly Ann Hassett, Aoife Staunton, Eoghan O’Sullivan, Mark Boland, Lewis McCahill, Rachael Mulcaire, Shannagh Spellman and Shane O’Donnell, who were accompanied by teachers Donal, John O’Connor and Jane Darcy.