A Second-Class Education For Second-Class Pupils

The recent announcements by the FG-Lab coalition government that is to “re-adjust” teacher-to-pupil numbers in classrooms acroos the country has drawn a groundswell of condemnation, not least in the Irish speaking communities where (surprise, surprise) the cuts are set to fall the hardest. The Irish Times carries the latest report on the reactions to the ministerial diktat:

“PARENTS OF children in small Gaeltacht schools have called on the Minister for Education to outline how he believes imposing new pupil-teacher ratios in small primary schools will save money in the long term.

“Ruairí Quinn, éist linn!” chanted more than 200 parents and their children at a demonstration in Galway at the weekend.

The parents from nine Gaeltacht schools in south Connemara expressed vehement opposition to a change which they describe as “discriminating against rural communities, non-Catholic school populations and Irish speakers”.

Irish National Teachers’ Organisation members attending a consultative conference in Galway also described the move as a “blunt instrument”. The organisation’s general secretary Sheila Nunan described the budgetary measures as “flawed and lacking in planning” and called for a “coherent, long-term and resourced strategy for sustainable schools that met children’s needs irrespective of location”.

Such a strategy should “respect linguistic diversity and plurality of patronage”…

The change to pupil-teacher ratios for those primary schools with four or fewer teachers was announced as a form of “phased increase” in pupil threshold in the December budget. Larger primary schools will not be affected.

At the Galway demonstration, which was held in “solidarity with INTO members”, Connemara Gaeltacht parents said Mr Quinn was “forcing closure by stealth” by eroding confidence in the viability of schools with four teachers and under.

…Leitir Calaidh parents Maria Nic Dhonncha, Mairín Ní Fhatharta and Margaret O’Sullivan said they were “very disappointed” at remarks by Minister of State for Education Ciarán Cannon in Ballinasloe on Friday night in which he proposed “clustering” junior and senior cycle primary classes from several schools under one board of management.

“Mr Cannon doesn’t seem to understand that if we lose our school, we lose our community, our identity is gone and it will affect the Irish language,” the parents said. “If Mr Cannon reflects the general attitude of Government, then as a society we are in serious trouble.””

I believe it is more a case of Ireland’s Irish-speaking society being in serious trouble as our present government pursues a series of discriminatory policies against the country’s Irish speaking population, policies that first came to light when Fine Gael in opposition announced plans to destroy the place of the Irish language in our education system. It seems the campaign to ghettoize Irish speakers has not gone far enough for the anglophone Fine Gael dog and its Labour tail (though in the latter case perhaps I should be using a metaphor referencing something slightly lower down on a dog’s anatomy?).

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6 Responses to “A Second-Class Education For Second-Class Pupils”
  1. aonghus says:

    Tá an íomhá úd thar fóir ar fad. Bain anuas é, maith an fear, baineann sé de’d argóint.

    • The use of the image, controversial though it may be, illustrates the discriminatory nature of the present government’s policies towards its Irish speaking citizens, the consequences of which are the increased ghettoization of that community. The use of the “Yellow Badge” as a way of identifying members of the Jewish (and other) communities dates back to the Middle Ages so it compares with the historic persecution of Irish speakers over the last eight centuries. It may be shocking but it is shocking for a purpose. It places the FG-Lab government’s policies in a historical context. I could have used an Apartheid image or some generic “behind prison bars” image but both would have lacked the historic significance and depth of the Yellow Badge.

      I understand why you object to its use. Ireland 2012 is not Germany 1939. However the bias towards native speakers in Ireland did not begin in 2012; it is centuries old. As with the roots of anti-Semitism.

  2. A law that is as misused as the subject it covers. But as I said the reference is to a historic form of discrimination rather than simply one specific time period, though of course that is the one that springs to mind first.

    If others express the same objection you do I will certainly consider changing the image. Judging by emails, tweets and FB messages your’s is the first, though that does not mean it will be the last. There is usually more reaction after 6pm Irish time. If enough think it unsuitable then it shall go.

    • aonghus says:

      Baineann an íomhá mar a bhain tú úsáid as go sonrach leis an Tríú Reich. Is fíor go raibh sé bunaithe ar suaitheantais eile, níos sine.

      Fanann mo bhunphointe áfach, níl comparáid dá laghad idir faillí agus patuaire Rialtas agus feachtas fada fuilteach fuatha. Ní chabhraíonn áibhéil mar seo lenár gcás.

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