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Bizarre situation of teacher in school with no pupils

IT'S rare to be surprised anymore at the levels of red tape and bureaucracy that are seen in this country but the bizarre situation that unfolded this week at Scoil Mhuire National School in Clonkeen is a startling exception.

While the east Kerry school has no pupils and is due to be shut down in the near future, a ludicrous regulation set down by officials at the Department of Education meant that for the last three months the school's principal still had report for work every day at a completely empty school.

Since September this teacher, who was willing and waiting to be transferred to another school, was forced to fill his days compiling logs and rolls for a deserted school and wandering the empty classrooms and halls.

That this situation was allowed to continue, and was arguably ignored altogether by officials at the Department of Education, while schools the length and breadth of Kerry cry for additional teachers is nothing short of scandalous.

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One can only wonder at the mentality of officials who are content to sit on their hands while a teacher's experience goes to waste at the same time that other understaffed schools are struggling to cope.

The department has often been heard to say it can't afford new teachers. That's easy to understand if they are content to squander the resources they do have in such an unbelievable manner.

What makes the debacle at Clonkeen even worse is that the Department seems to have taken decisive action to fix the problem only after a barrage of enquiries from the media this week. The principal of the school has now been redeployed but only after the Department was quizzed on the issue by The Kerryman and Radio Kerry.

For three months no action was taken, despite the fact that the school's principal and board of management had repeatedly contacted the Department to find a solution to the situation.

While the school and the principal did their best to solve the problem the Department, it seems, did nothing. That is until the media and the spectre of bad publicity came along.

It's a damning indictment of the culture of spin that exists and our government and the officials involved in this whole outrageous fiasco should hang their heads in shame.