This statement was made by the ITM, National Traveller Women’s Forum and Pavee Point Travellers’ Centre
Budgetary cuts in Traveller education are disproportionate compared to financial cutbacks of other mainstream educational cuts
Support for Traveller Education Slashed while the Government Minister Mary Coughlan T.D. states that the Budget 2011 is
‘A budget that recognises the critical role of the education and skills sector to Ireland’s future prospects’.
As Traveller children and young people begin to make inroads into the education system (DES, 2008) the State in one move dismantles all the supports to Traveller children and families and dissipates the department expertise on Traveller issues.
WITHDRAWAL OF RESOURCE TEACHERS POSTS FOR TRAVELLERS AT PRIMARY LEVEL
WITHDRAWAL OF TEACHING HOURS FOR TRAVELLERS IN POST PRIMARY
WITHDRAWAL OF VISITING TEACHERS FOR TRAVELLERS (42 POSTS) SEPT 2011
PHASING OUT OF ALL SENIOR TRAVELLER TRAINING CENTRES JUNE 2012
In 2008 Minister O’Keeffe states ‘Clearly, we have made huge progress in helping Travellers to access education and the figures bear that out’.
He continued by giving a commitment that the State would
‘continue to support Traveller students’ access to all levels of education so that they are optimally positioned to benefit from the learning opportunities that will stand to them in later life’.
In the recently launched (DEC, 2010) ‘State of the Nations Children Report’ (OMC, 2010) it states that
almost half of the total Traveller population of Ireland are under18 years of age and that approximately 6 out of every 10 Traveller children (58.9%) lived in families where the mother had either no formal education or primary education only.
The report also highlights the high level of children living in consistent poverty in Ireland. Traveller children are no exception to this and in fact experience both poverty and high levels of discrimination (Our Geels, 2010).
The impact of these cuts on Travellers’ educational provision was recently highlighted by the children’s charity Barnardos. In their analysis they stated ‘The cuts to Traveller-specific services is a short-sighted saving that will cement intergenerational cycles of disadvantage in the Traveller community’.
As a recent Equality Tribunal (Equality Tribunal, 2010) case shows Travellers continue to experience challenges in accessing schools. Although the Traveller family won their case the child has not been offered a place in the school. The school is appealing against the decision of the Equality Tribunal. Without supports for Travellers to gain access to school this type of situation will go unchallenged and Traveller children will continue to be discriminated in the Education System.
The UN Committee on the Right of the Child highlighted their concern in their Concluding Observations on Ireland Report 2006
‘The committee remains concerned, however, that adequate recognition, action and positive measures have not yet been taken to enhance the enjoyment of the rights of children belonging to the Traveller community and in particular to facilitate their access to education, housing and health services.’
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (which Ireland has signed) is specifically aimed at protecting the human rights of children; as well as the universal rights to freedom from discrimination and freedom from interference with the home and family, children are granted the right to education, among other things. These rights depend upon each other, and in the case of Travellers, it can be seen that the discrimination that they face can be a severe obstacle to education.
The budgetary cuts in Traveller education are disproportionate compared to financial cutbacks of other mainstream educational cuts. These cuts are short sighted and display a disregard for the Traveller child and young Traveller and their future life chances. It also comes on top of cuts in the school transport scheme for Traveller children, which will also have an impact on some Traveller children accessing education. Resources deployed by the Department of Education and Skills targeted to support Traveller children have shown that Traveller children are beginning to make strides throughout the Education System. We also know that much work remains to be done to ensure Traveller children remain in school until leaving certificate, access third level and gain employment in Irish Society. Traveller organisations have consistently called for the review of Traveller services in line with the Traveller Education Strategy to ensure efficiency and value for money. To date no review has taken place. This means that these educational cuts were not made in the best interests of Traveller children and young Travellers.
Traveller organisations sit on the Traveller Education Consultative Advisory Forum (TECAF) which oversees the implementation of the Traveller Education Strategy (TES, 2006). Traveller organisations were not informed of or consulted about the budget cuts to Traveller education. As part of the Education Strategy Traveller Representative Organisations are given a role in supporting the Strategy’s implementation and in the monitoring and evaluation of the measures. These cuts are not in keeping with the TES actions mapped out, nor the recommendations for the enhancement or support for Travellers in Education.
These cuts will have serious consequences for the education of Traveller children and young people. This decision is of grave concern to Traveller organisations and Traveller families.
The National Traveller Women’s Forum, Pavee Point and the Irish Traveller Movement call on the Minister to postpone these cuts, review and ring fence funds for Traveller education. Travellers need an explanation for these cuts to Traveller support services and in keeping with the Traveller Education Strategy also need a review of the Education provision to Traveller children and young people. This should happen through the Traveller Education Consultative Advisory Forum.
We also insist that there is an emergency meeting of the Traveller Education Consultative Advisory Forum to address these issues as a matter of urgency.