By Tara O'Liaith
News from the 26 County Department of Education of a new £1 million
``Walk Tall'' programme for Primary schools is a step forward in
tackling the Country's drug problem.
The anti-drugs programme is part of a £30 million plan by the
Department of Education to tackle drug abuse and will be in place by
early February, with children as young as five being warned against
the dangers of drug abuse.
The fact that the programme is being introduced into primary schools
suggests that Minister for Education Michael Martin is aware that
prevention is better than cure and the `get them while they're young'
idea is what could save the next generation of Irish youth. Or so it
How ironic then that late last year teachers in a primary school in
the north inner city of Dublin were forced to take a one day strike,
with the full support of INTO (Irish National Teachers'
Because of a shortage of four pupils on their roll books, the
Department of Education removed a teacher from the staff of Scoil
Mhuire, BNS, Dorset Street, Dublin. The school, assessed as one of
the 33 poorest schools in the country, spent ten years fighting for
extra funding and staff. Finally, three years ago they were granted
it as part of the Breaking The Cycle programme.
Teaching Principal of Scoil Mhuire, Finian McGrath, says ``things went
grand for two years and then because of a shortage of four pupils,
which I could then guarantee would not be the case at the start of a
new term, one of our teachers was removed''.
As a result, two classes have now been put together. Hardly an ideal
situation in an inner city school where a minority of children with
social and family problems are at risk, from the very thing Michael
Martin is supposedly working against: drugs.
``If you invest in education at Primary level,'' says Finian McGrath
``it pays off in the long term, there should be no argument about
spending money when it comes to spending money at this level''.
d spending money at the coal face, by supplying enough teachers,
is, you would imagine, where it should start. What good is a £1
million anti-drugs programme, if the children aren't valuable enough
to have a teacher to teach them?''
Finian McGrath is angry at the Department's decision, hence the one
day strike and he says there are no qualms about doing it again.
``There's been talk of extra money to be spent nationally, but as yet
there's no evidence. I won't believe we've won until the teacher we
lost comes back.''
He is determined that if there is no change by the end of this month
there will be another one day strike. ``We have the full support of
the union and the parents on this issue,'' he said.