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Time to let technology take the load off a studentÕs back



Date Published: {J}

The morning of the first full day of secondary school and the shoulder strap on the twelve year old’s brand new bag containing half a tonne of new books is already hanging by a thread from complete detachment.

Not surprising really, given that said bag – admittedly, at thirty quid, one of the few value purchases of this move to ‘free’ second-level education – contains around €400 worth of books, jotters, hard-back notebooks (none of your cheap flexi-covers here) and other accoutrements.

This isn’t about the bag because you get what you pay for – it’s about the cost of kitting out a child for secondary school in Ireland. And while we all know university takes this laughable notion of free education to new heights, we have a few years yet before that’s our problem.

So let’s concentrate on second-level for now.

The bag ripped last week because the school hadn’t allocated lockers on day one, which might seem strange in that putting the name of a student on a little box hardly qualifies as the cutting edge of forward planning – but then, in fairness, it can be hard to motivate yourself for a return to work after three months of a summer holiday.

And of course there’s a real danger that, if you give the locker away before you get your hands on the €15 rental charge from the parents, those dodgy freeloaders might never pay at all.

Thankfully the locker problem has now been resolved and the €15 is resting gently in the school account – but the quantity of the books to be carried on a twelve year old’s back every evening for homework remains an issue.

So here’s a solution that might actually bring us into the modern era, put chiropractors on a three day week, drive those school book companies who make a small fortune to refocus their selling technique and ultimately save all parents a few bob on books over the course of a five or six year cycle.

Why not get rid of books altogether and install all reading and work material on a laptop computer, which these days can be purchased for around €500 – or roughly the cost of one year’s school books and materials?

If the cost proves the problem, perhaps the state would underwrite this plan and parents could pay €100 a year over the course of second level education.

All material could be downloaded via Wi-Fi – installed and paid for in every school by the state – and even if families didn’t have this facility at home, any laptop allows you to work offline so that your homework is completed before returning to the classroom in the morning.

If classrooms need to be brought up to date, let the Government fund that too – some classrooms have interactive white boards which can be fully integrated with laptops, allowing students to show their work on screen in a far more efficient and beneficial way than a teacher taking home a pile of copies.

Of course it might increase the risk of copying homework – cutting and pasting is a lot easier than having to write the whole thing out – but a few well-placed questions from any teacher worth his or her salt should determine whether or not a student did the work or just did the copying.

Naturally there would be a cost involved in putting the syllabus material together somewhere down the line and perhaps parents would have to pay a small fee for that.

Or the government could reallocate responsibilities within the Civil Service so that, say, the woefully under-employed workers with typing skills in the planning office would be moved to the Department of Education to key in whatever changes are necessary to update the course reading material during any given summer.

An added bonus of all this would be the environmental impact of saving countless trees in trying to keep up with an ever-changing syllabus – which might have us all in agreement with the An Taisce groupie John Gormley for once, and that would be worth the effort all on its own. And it appears there’s already a similar pilot scheme running in Cavan.

By all accounts, we’re already been ripped off royally on the cost of school books.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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