30 June 2005

First wheel turns for determined gaelscoil

Daily Ireland

By Jarlath Kearney

A Derry primary school will today celebrate “a major milestone” with the departure of its first batch of students.
A handful of children, who were the first to attend Gaelscoil Éadáin Mhóir in 1998, today graduate as the school’s first primary seven class.
The gaelscoil is Derry’s second Irish-medium primary school.
Founded with just six pupils, the gaelscoil has grown dramatically and attendance in the coming academic year will top 130 students.
In total, over 300 young people are now being educated through Irish-medium education at primary school level in Derry city.
Risteard Mac Dabhéid, the gaelscoil’s vice-principal, hailed the moment as “a major milestone”.
“It’s a ringing endorsement for Irish-medium education,” Mr Mac Dabhéid told Daily Ireland.
“The fact that these children are now solid bilingual speakers means they are on a par with 70 per cent of the world’s population in being able to speak two languages.
“That alone will open doors that would possibly be closed through other mediums of education.
“With the enrichment of Irish has come the opportunity to develop and possibly secure employment in the future utilising bilingualism. And with the children now moving on, they have a very solid foundation for developing Spanish – the third language thay have been learning,” Mr Mac Dabhéid said.
With the gaelscoil placing a heavy emphasis on “the quality of education provided”, Mr Mac Dabhéid said that an equally important factor is the gaelscoil being anchored in the heart of the Bogside and Brandywell community.
“This school started with just six children in one mobile classroom beside Seán Dolan’s GAA club in 1998.
“In 2002, the school completed the permanent move to the Gasyard community complex and received formal recognition from then Education Minister Martin McGuinness.
“The gaelscoil’s success is undoubtedly its close bond with the community in which it exists, through the support of parents, teachers, local representatives, community organisations, but most of all through the contribution of the children in attendance,” Mr Mac Dabhéid said.
Meanwhile Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has applauded the decision of direct rule Education Minister Angela Smith to grant formal recognition to Gaelscoil na Lonnain in west Belfast.
After raising the issue on a number of occasions with Ms Smith, the West Belfast MP welcomed news that the gaelscoil will now have secure funding for the next three years.
“This Irish-medium primary school has been playing a vital role in the life of the lower Falls community on a shoestring budget.
“The fact that Gaelscoil an Lonnain will now receive support from the Department of Education is the good news which parents, children and staff in this school have been waiting to hear,” Mr Adams said.

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