HUNDREDS of primary school students took to the streets of Cork yesterday to highlight broken Government promises on school building projects.
In a remarkable show of strength, the pupils of Star of the Sea NS in Passage West, Co Cork, joined forces with the pupils of Glenville NS in north Cork in an escalation of what were, until yesterday, separate campaigns highlighting appalling conditions at their respective schools.
And they called on Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe, who took over the portfolio less than a month ago, to deliver on his government’s promises.
The 1970s-built Star of the Sea building has been branded a potential fire trap.
Parents and pupils were first promised a new school building by the then education minister Micheál Martin in 1999. They are still waiting. In Glenville NS, some pupils are being taught in a converted toilet.
Former education minister Mary Hanafin wrote to the school in November 2006 giving the green light for the construction of a new eight-classroom school. The school has acquired a site and the parents’ association has raised €50,000 towards the project. But they are still waiting too.
Yesterday’s joint protest was organised by the parents’ associations of both schools.
Chairwoman of Glenville NS parents’ association Kathleen Heffernan said they felt they had no other option but to take their children on to the streets.
“The Government isn’t listening to us. All we get is rubbishy standard letters, absolute crap, from the Department of Education. We’re being screwed.
“This protest is to force the Government to deliver on its promises. We’re hoping this protest will show them that we’re not going away,” she said.
Star of the Sea parents’ association spokeswoman Fiona O’Reilly said they are pressing for a completion date for their project.
“The money spent on prefabs at our school over the years could have paid for the construction of a new building by now,” she said.
“The only people who seem to get things done in Ireland today are those who shout loudest. It’s not what we want to be teaching our children but that’s the way it is, unfortunately.”
About 300 pupils, accompanied by parents and supporters, brought city centre traffic to a standstill.
They marched from Daunt Square down the South Mall where a protest letter was handed in to Department of Education offices. Both schools have warned that their campaigns will continue through the summer — even to the gates of Dáil Éireann if necessary.
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