Anastasia Lyamina sat the Junior Certificate at the all- Irish Meánscoil na Toirbhirte in Dingle two months ago, where she was able to learn most subjects through English.
The school, run by the Presentation Sisters, has now closed and is being amalgamated with the local Christian Brothers’ boys school. The new school, Pobalscoil Corca Dhuibhne, is to be an all-Irish school, but 15-year- old Anastasia, who has been exempt from learning the language since arriving in Ireland with her mother in 2005, will have to learn everything through Irish if she enrolls there.
John Ferriter, who married Anastasia’s mother Tatiana last November, is furious that her only other option is a 90km round trip to the nearest English language second-level school in Tralee every day.
“The school has told us there will be a four-day intensive Irish language course to help students like Anastasia catch up but that’s ridiculous. She’s already exempt from learning Irish, why should she be forced to learn everything else through the language,” he said.
It is understood that at least a handful of other students from the two schools now being merged are in a similar situation. The two schools had about 500 students combined.
The Department of Education has written to the board of management of the new school, and its trustees — County Kerry Vocational Education Committee, the Presentation Sisters and the Christian Brothers — about the matter and is awaiting a response.
The amalgamation was first proposed in the 1980s and agreed by all relevant parties in 1999.
Seán Ó Suilleabháin, chairman of the new school’s board of management, said students with no Irish would be helped by staff. He told RTÉ Radio’s Liveline programme yesterday that Anastasia could also improve her Irish in transition year before beginning the Leaving Certificate cycle next year.
However, Mr Ferriter claims the changes are not supported by all parents, and he and his wife could face prosecution if they do not send Anastasia to school as she is still under 16.
“If we were to send her to school in Tralee, we’d have to pay for the bus because we’re outside the catchment area for the schools there,” said John.
He and his wife work locally and the family lives 10km outside Dingle, which is in the Gaeltacht region. However, Mr Ferriter pointed out that recent census figures show that a fifth of the Dingle population is non-Irish.
“Why should all the children be forced to learn through Irish when it is not the first language of so many in what is supposed to be a Gaeltacht area? An English stream should be created in the school to cater for these students,” he said.