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Remote Irish school has just one student enrolled for September as campaign is launched for more

The principal of a secondary school on Inis Oírr, the smallest of the Aran Islands, says there has been an increased interest in the school and its accompanying grant following a campaign looking for more enrollments to add to their student base of one for September.

Coláiste Ghobnait is the sole secondary school on Inis Oírr and currently has just one new pupil registered to start in September. Principal Bríd Ní Dhonnacha says that hosting students from the mainland is a tradition that greatly supports the local economy.

“The post primary school is the heart of the island. The host families depend on the income and it is often their main source of income. They really make a home away from home possible for students, ”Bríd told the Irish Mirror.

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The Department of the Gaeltacht provides a grant covering maintenance costs for students who relocate to Inis Oírr. Pupils are only eligible for the grant if they cannot access an Irish language education in their local area.

Bríd explains that students quickly feel at home on the smallest Aran Island, with a population of just under 300. There is a local youth club which can help new students navigate island life more smoothly.

“It’s invaluable what they add to both our school and island community. A lot of students end up finding summer jobs here after the school term. They often end up coming back to the island and it’s lovely to see past pupils come back because of that connection, ”she adds.

There are currently 22 students registered to study in Coláiste Ghobnait this September, although this is likely to change in the coming weeks due to the appeal for new students. The grant covers maintenance costs of up to € 5,000 for students who relocate to the Aran Islands for their education.

Educators here are often in “survival mode” as a result of annual teaching allocations, which leave them with little job security. The school itself has been in operation for 35 years and has provided students an opportunity to enjoy island life, which Bríd says is an invaluable experience.

“Island life is unique, it’s special. It’s not as rushed as living on the mainland. We are really blessed to be living here and have the opportunities through the primary and post primary school, especially when we were without a secondary school in the past, ”she reveals.

“It’s so crucial that we have a post primary school and that we maintain it by improving what we aim to provide.”

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