Insurer comes to rescue of island's pupils
An island school that had just one teacher to cover the entire national school curriculum has been rescued by an insurance company after its plea to the Department of Education went unanswered.
After hearing of the plight of Inis Meáin school on the Aran Islands, Zurich Insurance pledged to help fund a second teacher for two years.
The initiative forms part of its 'Investing in Communities' programme.
Parents have told of their relief at the move, but said it was "shameful" that the Government had taken no action, leaving it to a multi-national company to address the problem.
Parents and the school's principal and only teacher, Orlaith Breathnach, highlighted their plight with the Department of Education but those appeals proved fruitless.
The school's nine students range in age from four to 13 years old and all seven areas of the curriculum must be taught daily. As the only school on the island, there is no option of amalgamation.
Máiréad Ní Fhatharta, who has one daughter in the school and a son enrolling next year, said parents were relieved to have a resolution in the short term.
"Obviously we're delighted to have a result in the short term, but it is absolutely shameful that a multi-national company has to step in and ensure proper education is provided for Inis Meáin," she said. "This shows how removed the Government is from the issue. The department's response to date has been completely insufficient."
Patrick Manley, chief executive of Zurich EMEA, said the company was proud to step in to support "the very future of the fabric of the island community".
Concerned parents and the wider community of Inis Meáin have now launched a fundraising website - www.inismeainbeo.com - to support and publicise the campaign on an ongoing basis.