UP to 80% of students educated at Kilrush Community School have no option but to leave West Clare, due to the absence of employment opportunities.
That’s according to principal, Rock Kirwan, who is starting his 24th year at the 38-teacher school, which has a current enrolment of 430 pupils.
“I would suspect that you are talking between 20% and 30%,” he replied, when asked how many of his past pupils live and work in the region.
“That would be an interesting piece of research for some budding sociologist to take up in college, as to what is happening in rural areas. Most see that their futures lie elsewhere and not in the local area. Most are aware of that, particularly those that go on to third level, as most do. If you take what’s being called the recovery in the Irish economy, it’s being fed out of two or three major urban centres. I don’t see that that has filtered down into rural areas to any great extent. It is sad that an area in this country can’t sustain employment for its young people. There is a sadness about that for families. It’s a national issue and it’s one, in my view, that isn’t being assigned the political importance that it should be,” Mr Kirwan maintained.
“All you have to do is listen to the news any day of the week as to where the creation of new jobs is. It certainly doesn’t seem to be in rural areas. We’d like to think that we’re educating the students here, not just in a local context but in a wider European context. That’s what you have to look at,” he said, adding that his issue is with the absence of an option for students from Kilrush and outlying parishes in West Clare.
Mr Kirwan acknowledged there is a good side to it as well. “It’s great, in my view, that youngsters from Kilrush and West Clare can go out, hold their own and make a life for themselves. I think that’s a wonderful thing but it would be nice if they had the option, when they gain those skills, of bringing them back to their home place. Some do but maybe not in the numbers which would be good for the area,” he pointed out.
While the school now caters for very high student numbers, Mr Kirwan predicts that numbers will fall in the years ahead, as local primary-school pupil numbers are declining.
“The long-term projections are that there will be reduced numbers coming from the feeder schools. We’d be aware of that,” he said.
By Peteer O’Connell