By Barry Lord @Bazneto
Given the squabbling and intransigence that has characterised the attempted formation of a new government, would it really be such a terrible idea to entrust the running of the country to our nation’s children?
It seems Barnardos are not only in agreement, but they are already asking the question.
Niamh Kelly, the Policy Development Officer for Barnardo’s Ireland has talked about the work currently being undertaken by the children’s charity and discussed this novel approach to gaining constructive feedback from the young.
We conducted a survey recently in primary schools around the country and the question was ‘What would you do if you were Taoiseach for the day,” explained Niamh.
“One little girl wanted to be a butterfly!” laughed Niamh.
Perhaps that one wasn’t going to make the final report, but on the whole, she was impressed with many of the responses.
“The altruistic nature of the feedback was encouraging,” said Niamh. “Craig, a 10-year-old boy from Limerick, said there should be a greater level of respect between pupils and teachers.
Another 5-year-old lad from Clonmel suggested that schools could benefit from more books and better books to be made available, and a 4-year-old girl from Tallaght wanted to see food machines loaded with good, nourishing food for everyone.
“Children know what the issues are, particularly the ones we work with at Barnardos. They know all about the concerns of their families and want to see change themselves.”
On the subject of food poverty, Niamh said: “Food Poverty is rising in this country. 1 in 6 children experience it.”
Niamh wants to see this issue eradicated and underlined the goals that Barnardo’s continue to strive for, insisting they can make inroads with fundamental change in the school system.
“What we would like to see is primary education made free,” said Niamh. “We have a huge degree of inequality with regards to what some parents can afford for their children. The Active school system is one example. Some parents can afford it, others can’t. In the UK they don’t pay anything for their children’s text books, but we do and this is an added financial burden.”
Niamh acknowledged the technological advancements in digital learning but regardless of this fact, the principle of free resources should remain, according to Barnardos.
“We recognise digital learning mixed with traditional learning methods. But whatever learning is, be it photocopying to digital to textbook, it should be free. Education shouldn’t carry a price tag,” said Niamh.
The cost of this revolutionary change is something Barnardos is acutely aware of.
“We could look at getting rid of voluntary contributions, the bus scheme that parents avail of carries a fee which could be dispensed with. We should try to increase funding to schools back to 2010 levels, when they were cut. For us to make progress, we need a government that cares as passionately as we do about these issues and strong leadership,” she told Near FM.