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Schools Closed 1920

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School Closed  1920

Taken from "What's the Matter with Ireland?"
Author: Ruth Russell in 1920

There's small chance for the Irish to better their condition through education.
Many Irish children don't go to school. It is estimated that out of 500,000 school children, 150,000 do not attend school.
Why not?     Here are two reasons advanced by the Vice-Regal Committee on Primary Education, Ireland, in its report published by His Majesty's Stationers, Dublin, 1919: Many families are too poor. England does not encourage Irish education. Irish poverty is recognized in the school laws; the Irish Education act passed by Parliament in 1892 is full of excuses for children who must go to work instead of to school.

Thousands of Irish youngsters must avail themselves of these excuses. Ireland has 64,000 children under the age of 14 at work. But Scotland with virtually the same population has only 37,500.

[17] Eight-year-old Michael Mallin drags kelp out of a rush basket and packs it down for fertilizer between the brown ridges of the little hand-spaded field in Donegal.
"Is there no school to be going to, Michael?" "There do be a school, but to help my da' there is no one home but me." The act says that the following is a "reasonable excuse for the non-attendance of a child, namely, ... being engaged in necessary operations of husbandry."

[18] Ten-year-old Margaret Duncan can be found sitting hunched up on a doorstep in a back street in Belfast. Her skirt and the step are webbed with threads clipped from machine-embroidered linen, or pulled from handkerchiefs for hemstitching.
A few doors away little Helen Keefe, all elbows, is scrubbing her front steps.
"But school's on." "Aye," responds Margaret, "but our mothers need us."
The act plainly states that another reasonable excuse is "domestic necessity or other work requiring to be done at a particular time or season."

[19] William Brady has a twelve-hour day in Dublin. He's out in the morning at 5:30 to deliver papers. He's at school until three. He runs errands for the sweet shop till seven. "You get too tired for school work. How does your teacher like that?"
"Ash! She can't do anything." Intuitively he knows that he can protect himself behind the fortress of words in the school attendance act: "A person shall not be deemed to have taken a child into his employment in contravention of this act if it is proved that the employment by reason of being during the hours when school is not in session does not interfere with the efficient elementary instruction of the child."

[20] Nine-year-old Patrick Gallagher may go to the Letterkenny Hiring Fair and sell his baby services to a farmer. Some one may say to Paddy: "Why aren't you at school?" "Surely, I live over two miles away from school." The law thinks two miles are too far for him to walk. So he may be hired to work instead. Reads the education act:
"A person shall not be deemed to have taken a child into his employment in contravention of this act if it is proved to the satisfaction of the court that during the employment there is not within two miles ... from the residence of the child any school which the child can attend."

[21] Incidentally England does not encourage Irish education. England does not provide enough money to erect the best schools nor to attract the best teachers. But England agreed to an Irish education grant.

[22] She established a central board of education in Ireland, and promised that through this board she would pay two-thirds of the school building bill and teachers' salaries to any one who was zealous enough to erect a school.
Does England come through with the funds? Not, says the vice-regal committee, unless she feels like it. In 1900 she agreed with Ireland that Ireland's teachers should be paid higher salaries, but stipulated that the increase in salaries would not mean an immediate increase in grants. New building grants were suspended altogether for a time. In 1902, an annual grant of L185,000 was diverted from Irish primary education and used for quite extraneous purposes. And when England does give money for Irish education, she pays no heed to the requirements stated by the Irish commissioners of education.

[23] Instead she says: "This amount I happen to be giving to English education; I will grant a proportionate amount to Irish education." "If English primary education happens to require financial aid from the Treasury, Irish primary education is to get some and in proportion thereto," writes the committee. "If England happens not to require any, then, of course, neither does Ireland. A starving man is to be fed only if some one else is hungry. It seems to us extraordinary that Irish primary education should be financed on lines that have little relation to the needs of the case."

[24] So there are not enough schools to go to. Belfast teachers testified before the committee that in their city alone there were 15,000 children without school accommodations. Some of the number are on the streets. Others are packed into educational holes of Calcutta. New schools, said the teachers, are needed not only for these pupils but also for those incarcerated in unsuitable schools--unheated schools or schools in whose dark rooms gas must burn daily. On the point of unsuitability, the testimony of a special investigator named F.H. Dale was quoted.
He said: "I have no hesitation in reporting that both in point of convenience for teachers and in the requirements necessary for the health of teachers and scholars, the average school buildings in Dublin and Belfast are markedly inferior to the average school buildings now in use in English cities of corresponding size."
So if unsuitable schools were removed, Belfast would have to provide for some thousands of school children beyond the estimate of 15,000, and other localities according to their similar great need.

[25] Live, interesting primary teachers are few in Ireland. The low pay does not begin to compensate Irish school teachers for the great sacrifices they must make.
Women teachers in Ireland begin at $405 a year; men at $500. If it were not for the fact that there are very few openings for educated young men and women in a grazing country there would probably be even greater scarcity.

[26] Since three-fourths of the schools are rural those who determine to teach must resign themselves to social and professional hermitage. What is the result of these factors on the teaching morale? The 1918 report at the education office shows 13,258 teachers, and only 3,820 of these are marked highly efficient.

[27] Footnote 17: Figures supplied by H.C. Ferguson, Superintendent of Charity Organization Society, Belfast, 1919.
Footnote 18: "Irish Education Act, 1892." (55 & 56 Vict.) Chap. 42. P. 1.
Footnote 19: _Ibid_. P. 1.
Footnote 20: _Ibid_. P. 4.
Footnote 21: _Ibid_. P. 3.
Footnote 22: _Ibid_. P. 8 et al.
Footnote 23. "Vice-regal Committee of Enquiry into Primary Education, Ireland, 1918." His Majesty's Stationery Office. Dublin. 1919. P. 22.
Footnote 24: _Ibid_. P. 22.
Footnote 25: _Ibid_. Martin Reservation. P. 27-30.
Footnote 26: _Ibid_. P. 8.
Footnote 27: _Ibid_. P. 39.

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