THE Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has allocated €241,075 to Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne for the Language Assistants Scheme (Scéim na gCúntóirí Teanga). The allocation represents an increase in funding of almost €30,000 for the current school-year.
According to a spokesperson for Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne, Scéim na gCúntóirí Teanga has been in existence for over 20 years in the primary schools and for a lesser period in the post primary schools of Corca Dhuibhne and of the Gaeltacht areas of Munster. The scheme – which is funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht - has been managed and organised by Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne in 27 schools across the entire Munster Gaeltacht regions since its inception.
"The aim of the scheme initially was to give assistance to children without Irish, or with a limited amount of Irish, entering all-Irish medium primary and post primary schools in Gaeltacht areas," the spokesperson explained. "To this end the scheme has been successful and equips primary school children to acquire the language and to successfully undertake their post primary education through the medium of Irish."
"Ongoing in-service training is provided for Language Assistants by Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne and most assistants have achieved qualifications in Language Acquisition & Development organised by Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne in conjunction with the Dublin Institute for Technology and Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge in NUI Galway. Language Assistants spend on average five to ten hours per week in the school and work at the direction of the class teacher," the spokesperson added.
Some of the extra funding allocated this year will be spent on language enrichment programmes to support children who are being raised through Irish.
"This is a new development as research now indicates that these children are not as fluent as would be expected upon leaving school," the spokesperson added. "At present the majority of pupils in Gaeltacht schools enter the schools as language learners rather than as Irish speakers. To ensure the survival of the language and an active language community for the next generation, measures must now be taken to encourage today's young Irish speakers to continue using their own language socially amongst their peers."