School remains in dilapidated prefab for 13 years

Gaelscoil na Camóige in Clondalkin has been housed in a substandard prefab for 13 years. This summer, a child collapsed from heat exhaustion due to the poor conditions. Seven years ago, the Department of Education promised a new site in 'in months rather than years', but still they wait. Emma Browne reports

A primary school in Clondalkin has been housed in secondhand prefabs since 1993. Despite assurances from the Department of Education and Science in 1999 that it would decide on a site for the school in "months rather than years", the school remains in appalling conditions.

Gaelscoil na Camóige was established in 1993 and now has 220 pupils. In 1999, the school became permanent and the department said a decision on a site for the school would be made in a matter of months.

In 2001, the Office of Public Works undertook the acquisition of a site on behalf of the Department of Education and a year later sent their findings to them. Four years on, there is still no site for the school.

At present, the school's prefabs are situated on rented land, costing the state €100,000 each year. Ultan Mac Mathúna, principal of Gaelscoil na Camóige, estimates that the rent since 1993 has cost the state €500,000.

He says conditions in the school are unacceptable. "We lack the basic resources – we have to rent out the scout's hall across the road to have an assembly. And we don't have proper toilet facilities – in the winter, some children have to leave their classrooms and go out in the rain and the cold to the toilet."

In May this year, seven-year-old pupil Liam Doran collapsed from heat exhaustion because the prefabs have no air conditioning.

The classroom dimensions are far below the Department of Education's recommendations. The recommended classroom size is 76 square metres, but the classrooms in Gaelsciol na Camóige are 46.5 square metres.

The school recently acquired an additional special needs teacher but, due to their limited space, she was accommodated in a cleared-out store cupboard.

The local crime-prevention officer has said the school is unsafe, since it has no security fencing. The department has refused to pay for this.

Local Sinn Féin councillors Joanne Spain and Shane O'Connor have called on Minister for Education and Science Mary Hanafin to make funding available. "Local people have been told by the Minister for Education that the department is actively pursuing a particular site in the Clondalkin area, but she refuses to go into details about where this site is."

Village asked the Department of Education and Science if there was any timeframe on the site and the building of a school. It responded, "Proposals for an alternative site are actively being considered by the department. Due to commercial sensitivities surrounding site acquisitions, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage."

Ultan Mac Mathúna says, "There is one partner in the equation letting us down: that is the government. They have failed to come up with a site."