Locals rally to save city education centre

A petition against the Government’s refusal to provide funding to save a Cork City education centre has topped 2,000 signatures.

The Life Centre in Sunday’s Well caters for early school leavers and those with learning difficulties.

However, the Christian Brothers, who also provide the property free, can no longer afford a €90,000 annual donation they have provided since the centre opened in 2000.

A local fundraising campaign has been launched as the Department of Education continues to refuse to increase its yearly €47,500 grant to the centre.

The centre was forced to cease enrolments and faces closure within two years once examination commitments to current students are met. Over 70 applicants, it emerged, were refused enrolment since January.

Sandra McShane, whose young daughter attends the centre, says parents are determined to retain the facility. “The petition is going well and so is fundraising,” she says. “We held a successful music and poetry night at the Crane Theatre last week and we have a basketball tournament in Ballyphehane Community hall shortly. The community support is fantastic.”

The Life Centre accommodates 40 students, aged 12 to 18 from across the county, many of whom have coped with personal traumas. “We had students who had rarely left their own homes for two years,” says principal, Don O’Leary, “but they inevitably have thrived here”.

Mr O’Leary is the sole paid member among more than 60 qualified staff, some of whom are full-time.

He describes the students as “hugely talented and highly motivated. One student gained nine Junior Cert honours,” he noted.

The centre provides low student-teacher ratio, including one-to-one tuition in a wide-ranging curriculum. It also provides year- round services such as youth camps, counselling and advisory and therapy sessions. In what is regarded as a dynamic socialisation strategy, teachers and students dine together.

The department’s failure to increase funding continues, despite a glowing inspectorate report a few years ago. Mr O’Leary said the department’s stance is financially illogical.

“These students would cost €5,000 each per annum — or €200,000 in total — to teach and €15,000 for special needs. We are saving the State over €100,000 annually in school placements but, beyond that, we are providing an education that children enjoy and to which they have a basic right.”

-The Save the Life Centre petition can be found on its Facebook page.


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