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Hanafin must publish school building programme list - Doherty

23 April, 2008

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty has criticised the Minister for Education Mary Hanafin for being completely unaware of the number of school children being taught in prefabs. Speaking today on the issue of school buildings Senator Doherty said the Minister should publish a list of all schools on the school building programme with priority ratings and indicative dates of construction.

Senator Doherty said, "Mary Hanafin's predecessor at the Department Education and Science, Deputy Noel Dempsey, used top publish lists of all schools on the school building programme, which included priority ratings and indicative dates of construction. This brought a much needed measure of transparency and openness of information into the process which, up to then, had been secretive. In general, school communities were of the opinion that the system was fair.

"When Deputy Mary Hanafin became Minister for Education and Science, she abandoned this system and, since taking office, has not published a comprehensive picture of the building programme. Many schools have been waiting for years for an indication of when their projects will commence. No lists are available and there is a major lack of transparency in the issue, which leads to accusations of political interference, a 'nod and a wink' system within the schools building programme.

"Currently the Minister is completely unaware of the number of children being taught in prefabs and is in the process of writing to schools asking if they are using prefabricated classrooms. How can she possibly develop a plan when she doesn't even know herself how many of these 'temporary buildings' are being used and for how long they have been in use. I have spoken to numerous parents whose children have never been taught in anything but prefabs.

"Schools need answers. For too long they have been kept in the dark, for too long they have been left waiting and wondering, and for too long pupils have attended class in conditions not befitting an animal.

"Our children are being taught in run-down prefabs, sitting three to a seat or in some cases on the floor. Many have to sit shivering in their desks in freezing cold prefabs and risk picking up a serious disease from rat-infested playgrounds.

"This has truly gone on long enough and it is of utmost importance that the Minister takes a serious look at the current running of the education system. She must either make some drastic changes or resign from her post. The future of our children depends on it." ENDS

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