Sinn Fein county councillor Gerry Murray has described as extraordinary the admission by the Government that it does not know how many schools across the State are using prefabs. Last week the Department of Education confirmed that it does not have a complete list of all primary and secondary schools using prefab buildings; it just has data collected from a sample survey of 900 schools. Shockingly there are more than 2,605 prefab units being used in the 900 schools surveyed.
“It is outrageous that the Minister for Education does not know how many of our schools are using prefabricated units,” Cllr Murray said. “Educating our children in prefabs is a problem. But how can this problem be solved if the Minister himself does not know the full extent of it?
“What we do know from the Department’s survey is that there are over 2,605 prefab units in the 900 schools surveyed. So despite the unprecedented wealth of the Celtic tiger years Fianna Fáil failed to invest this wealth back into our education system. Over the last three years €113 million has been spent on prefabs with the Minister projecting a further spend of €48 million this year. The reality is that thousands of children across the country will have spent their entire education in substandard education. Their experience could and should have been very different. This type of money could have been used to pay the interest on a major capital invest in schools like Midfield and Charlestown. It’s a shameful waste of public money.”
Cllr Murray asked: “How exactly does Fianna Fáil intend to build a knowledge economy if it sees no benefit in investing in the most fundamental tools of early education such as school buildings and teacher pupil ratios? As it stand 254 teaching posts will be lost as a result of the Government’s decision to increase class sizes and up to 1,000 positions in primary schools will be lost as a result of the recent cutbacks. The fact is there are some public services that should be no go areas when it comes to cut-backs. Education is one such area.
“In addition the Minister also confirmed in his response to a Sinn Féin parliamentary question that all maintenance and upkeep of prefabs must be funded from the school’s already deeply inadequate capitation grant.
“Sinn Fein believes education is a priority. In government we would frontload infrastructure projects such as a school building programme using monies from the National Pension Reserve Fund. Legislation is going through the Dáil and Seanad this week to pump €7 billion of the Pension Reserve Fund monies into flailing banks. In government Sinn Féin would use this money to properly invest in Ireland’s future.”