Despite the recent government announcement of school closures until September of this year, there was cause for celebration among pupils and teachers across Ireland participating in the Blue Star Programme this week.
Each year, in the lead-up to Europe day on 9 May, schools across the country take part in a nationwide ‘Handshake for Europe’ where pupils and teachers shake hands in recognition of the solidarity among European countries and citizens, and to celebrate the diversity of a strong and inclusive European Union. This year, with social distancing measures in place and pupils home from school, pupils and teachers instead took part in an ‘Air Handshake for Europe’, ‘shaking hands’ virtually on online platforms – to highlight the importance of solidarity among Europeans, and in particular this year as a tribute to health care and frontline workers across Europe.
A second cause of celebration for 12 schools around the country were their ‘Five Year Achievement Awards’ – granted to schools who participate in the Blue Star Programme for five consecutive years. Through the Programme, implemented by European Movement Ireland, primary school pupils learn about Europe and the EU through creative activities and projects on the history, geography, culture and creativity, and the institutions of the EU.
Speaking about the awards and this year’s online Air Handshake for Europe, Noelle O Connell of EM Ireland said:
“Over the last 9 years, over 1,000 primary school registrations and 90,000 pupils from across Ireland have taken part in the Blue Star Programme. Huge congratulations is due to the 12 schools that have participated in the programme for the past 5 years and earned achievement awards by learning all about the history, geography, art, creativity, culture and values of Europe and reaching out to their fellow primary school counterparts across Europe. Initiatives such as the Blue Star Programme are crucial now more than ever in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Solidarity across Europe is crucial to our recovery and indeed to the future of Europe. During these difficult times for people across Ireland and Europe, it is great to be able to celebrate Europe Day and all of the participating schools’ achievements in a new way with our ‘Air Handshake for Europe’ this year”