Monday 25 September 2017

Juggling fractions, feelings and fear: Leaving Cert student Emily Cahill is wary of the impact school closures would have on her study

Emily Cahill, a student at Presentation Secondary School, Miltown, Co Kerry, pictured at home in Fossa. Photo: Domnick Walsh
Emily Cahill, a student at Presentation Secondary School, Miltown, Co Kerry, pictured at home in Fossa. Photo: Domnick Walsh

Emily Cahill

Finishing my homework last Friday, weary and worn, the internet did not so readily yield its usual easy relief of cat memes and videos of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump serenading each other with romantic ballads.

In their place I found articles confirming what we had heard circulating in vague rumours all week: seven days of strike action by ASTI members with withdrawal from supervision and substituting beginning November 7. But I'd imagine that you already know that, we all are only too familiar with the facts.

As a student of economics and common sense, I understand the value of strike action in achieving union aims for the benefit of members.

I understand the need to fight for fair conditions and terms of work. I understand the Government cannot concede every demand made of it. So I will not reiterate the facts, I'd much rather deal in feelings.

Let's start with the feelings of disbelief shared among my friends over the weekend. I cannot deny the irony that for once we were not baffled by complicated grammar rules or tedious essays but with the threat of the doors to our school closing.

As Leaving Certificate students we spent the weeks preceding this announcement honing our juggling technique. We are learning the balance between homework, revision, sports and social life all with a flaming ball of stress thrown in just to keep us alert. So it's hardly a surprise that the news we face missing seven days of school in the near future came as a rather unwelcome visitor to the circus.

Futility was the next feeling to emerge, what good would come of worrying about the impact of this decision when we could identify no villain to blame? Our teachers do not want to lose seven valuable days, in a year already too short for all the work we must accomplish by June.

We have seen this country and our Government at its worst, crawling through bankruptcy; we are much too familiar with Nama, with insolvency, with debt. But we respect efforts made to renew our country's credibility, nodding along as the 2017 Budget gave everyone a little. We have been raised on tales of good and evil, which have no place in a dispute like this.

Finally, frustration. We are frustrated because our voices have, as of yet, been neglected in this narrative. A narrative to which we are inescapably linked. Of course, students are not the first to be affected in what has been a tumultuous year for industrial relations. But the doors of affected schools will be closed on October 27, regardless of how we manage to get there.

I must be honest, Leaving Certificate preparations have not depleted our ability to enjoy a day off once in a while. Study days too. But a weekly day out of school in November? There is only so much revision one can do when we still have almost every subject's course to finish.

The real danger in this is the climate of unease and unpredictability it is likely to create. We are only now comfortable with tossing up the different aspects of our lives as students, can we really afford to throw up a new concern… and risk dropping everything else in the process?

Our voices are the ones which will echo in Leinster House, in conference halls and in classrooms across the country in a matter of years.

So wouldn't it follow that our feelings have a place in this discussion? Because for now we are reliant on the door to education being held open, inviting us in and encouraging us as we work towards the Leaving Certificate.

Irish Independent

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