All teachers want for Christmas is a Gaelteacht grant

Cáit Caden

Student teachers must pay for their mandatory Gaelteacht placement on top of fees. Colm O'Halloran and USI Vice President for Gaeilge Aoife Ní Dhéisigh from the USI joined Craig McHugh from DCUSU on St. Patrick's campus to launch the campaign. Credit: Alison Clair

A national campaign to get a Gaeltacht grant for student teachers was launched by the Union of Students (USI) Ireland on December 4th.

Following the launch of the #GaelFees campaign, DCU Students’ Union will join the ‘All I want for Christmas is a Gaeltacht grant’ rally outside the Dáil on December 13th, organised by the USI and Conradh na Gaeilge, to oppose the Gaelteacht fee for student teachers.

“We already have the second highest fees in Europe,” said USI Vice President for Gaeilge Aoife Ní Dhéisigh, who spoke to The College View about the extra finances some students have to pay on top of this such as placements, work materials and expenses to go to the Gaeltacht which is mandatory for many student teachers.

“For primary teachers, you’re talking two terms probably at a cost of €1,500 per term,” said Ní Dhéisigh and added that some secondary school teachers “have to spend two months in the Gaeltacht to register with the teaching council.”

Primary teaching students must go to the Gaelteacht in first and third year according to the USI Student Teachers Placement Report. In this report, 89 per cent of current students and 79 per cent of graduates state that the compulsory Gaelteacht fee is too high.

In 2012, the Department of Education abolished the subsidy for Gaeltacht Placement which eased the financial strain on students. In 2017, 42 per cent of student teachers considered dropping out of college due to financial pressure, according to the above report.

The cost of going to the Gaeltacht is “ridiculously expensive,” said final year student teacher on St Patrick’s campus, Katie Breen.

For the campaign, the USI created a petition to get students directly involved with trying to bring back the Gaelteacht grant.

“I was talking to teachers that graduated a decade ago and they said it was subsidised so they’d only be paying like €250 for it,” said final student teacher Philip Kiernan about the financial support for going to the Gaeltacht which used to be provided to student teachers.

“We’ve done a cost analysis on this. It really would only cost the State €2 million to bring it back so it really is just a drop in the ocean,” said DCUSU Vice President for Education and Placement Craig McHugh.

McHugh said the if the government brought in a Gaeltacht grant it would be more of “an investment” instead of “a cost”.

This issue was raised in the past during parliamentary questions by the USI, however the then Minister for Education, Richard Bruton “had no interest in this,” according to Ní Dhéisigh.

Ní Dhéisigh added that Bruton said money was not available for the grant.

“I’m hoping that we’ll be quite fortunate in that the fact that we have a former minister [ Minister for Education Joe McHugh] for the Gaelteacht in the position now. He really does have a passion for the language that’s quite clear and especially as its Bliain na Gaeilge, it would be absolutely brilliant to see more investment in the language,” continued Ní Dhéisigh.

Although they are not connected, the campaign comes after DCU’s first Student Appreciation Day.

“We got an email there about the Gaelteacht and fees for that, and he’s (Craig McHugh) is telling us all about marches and stuff and everything for student teachers, but it’s a bit late for us cos we’re finished. I think certainly this year, I’ve seen more of an effort put in to looking into the lives of student teachers and really just their place in DCU,” said Kiernan.

Cáit Caden

Image Credit: Alison Clair