éirígí chairperson Brian Leeson has labeled the conditions children are forced to endure in Ireland’s schools an indictment on the systems of government in the country.
Leeson identified four matters in particular as indicative of the disdain with which the Leinster House and Stormont administrations treat the nation’s children:
1. The closure by Twenty-Six County education minister Batt O’Keeffe of 128 special needs classes, which provided for 528 students, in order to save €7 million [£6.3 million].
2. The decision by many grammar schools in the Six Counties to continue with discriminatory entrance exams.
3. The revelation that the Twenty-Six County government has spent €50 million [£45 million] in the last year renting prefab buildings in which to teach children.
4. Attempts by both states to undermine best practice education of children in the Irish language:
Brian said: “Any government that seeks to build a better society would obviously place the adequate education of children at the forefront of their financial and political agenda. This has patently not been happening throughout Ireland.
“What we have witnessed instead is the closure of essential services and the refusal to provide others, continued kow-towing to the reactionary elements who want higher education to be the preserve of the wealthy and disdain for those who want to educate their children through the medium of Irish.
“Turfing 528 special needs students out of their classes to save €7 million shows exactly where the Dublin government’s priorities lie – with the business class who can afford to pay for world class education while taking bail outs funded by such anti-social measures.
“This fact was accentuated in Leinster House yesterday [Monday] with the announcement by Batt O’Keeffe that his government paid private companies €50 million last year for the renting of ‘temporary’ prefab buildings to be used as classrooms. These prefabs are anything but temporary; they have been used, in many cases for decades, as a poor substitute for a government program of building purpose-built schools.
“In the Six Counties, the academic elite and wealthy are being allowed leeway to oppose any replacement of the discriminatory transfer system with a fairer method of educational progress.
“Across the country, both administrations are continuing to undermine the immersion form of education for children in Irish-language schools and refuse to fund Gaelscoileanna adequately.”
Brian continued: “The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation and many parents are to be commended for their opposition to this effectively anti-child approach to education.
“What is needed now is an alliance between all those who have an interest in an education system that fosters a love of learning and development in a safe and appropriate environment – teachers’ unions, parents, students, the Irish language movement and working class communities.
“Such an alliance has the potential to not only prevent retrograde steps like the cutting of special needs’ provision and the retention of the transfer system in the Six Counties, but to promote a radically new vision of how the children of the nation can be educated.”