Monday 20 November 2017

Island's coláiste is thriving thanks to scheme

Lauren Ní Bhaoill, who is a Leaving Cert student in Coláiste Phobail Cholmcille, on Tory island
Lauren Ní Bhaoill, who is a Leaving Cert student in Coláiste Phobail Cholmcille, on Tory island

In a county notorious for its dreadful internet connections and awful mobile phone coverage, a secondary school on an island 15km off the Donegal coast is an oasis for the world wide web.

Coláiste Phobail Cholmcille on Tory Island has just five students at the moment on an island with a population of 155 and growing.

Numbers may fluctuate - but the internet connection specially installed as part of the National Schools Broadband scheme is making a massive difference to their lives, says principal Máire Clár Nic Mhathúna.

"It has made a huge difference to us here, both for students and staff," she says. "Students can access many online sites, seek information, access textbooks, communicate with other students and schools on the mainland.

"Teachers can avail of online courses which would otherwise be out of our reach as we cannot travel to the mainland for a few hours on a particular day. The ferry service is good but we cannot get to the mainland most days before 11.30am and then have to return in the early evening, 2pm in the winter," she explains.

"Now we are able to 'attend' meetings through Skype rather than miss up to three days teaching.

"Through the internet we can catch up with the latest ideas and developments instantly."

Post arrives on the island just twice a week, so all communication is carried out via email.

"Our school was chosen as one of the most remote to see if broadband could be made available," says Máire Clár.

"Ironically, we have great connection but there are many places a few metres away that have none at all.

"We introduced iPads to all students to complement their learning. This has allowed us to use email with our students to send homework, [and] to visit places we cannot physically visit, like Dublin, New York and even Mars.

"Students are very technically orientated and having access to the internet and a decent connection enhances their learning without destroying their oral, written skills. We also use software to make films and radio plays.

"Our connection is absolutely vital to Tory."

Irish Independent

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