Ukrainian children speak focal cúpla in an Irish language school

Mayor Peter Kavanagh and children with Sinéad Bheilgigh (Principal), Seosamh Ó Muirí (SNA), Siobhán Ní Dhúill (Chair), Michaela Ní Dhonnghaile (Teacher)

IT’S all aboard at Gaelscoil Lir as the Irish language school, the majority of whose pupils come from Ukraine, celebrates a successful first year of operation.

Some 6,824 arrivals from Ukraine have enrolled in Irish schools since the escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian war in February.

The 4,794 children of these Ukrainian refugees are enrolled in primary schools.

A new Irish-language primary school, Gaelscoil Lir, has taken in eight Ukrainian children who currently live at Citywest Hotel on their registers.

At present the new multi-denominational gaelscoil has 14 pupils in Junior Infants and they are beginning to focus on moving premises for the new term in September.

Next term, 22 new pupils will join the school’s Junior Infants – six of whom are refugees from Ukraine – while staff are expected to double to accommodate their development.

On Friday June 10, South Dublin Mayor Cllr Peter Kavanagh visited the new school with the news that there will be a new autistic classroom at the school and to say “dia dhuit”.

“Mayor Peter Kavanagh has paid an official visit to Gaelscoil Lir, as the new gaelscoil in the region, as he comes to the end of his term as mayor,” Principal Sinéad Bheilbigh told The Echo.

“He wanted to draw attention to the fact that there is an autism unit that comes to the school and these things can happen in a gaelscoil.

“There is absolutely no reason why an autistic child cannot go to school through the medium of Irish and the introduction of a class for autism shows this.

“We have eight new Ukrainian children at school and their ability to learn Irish is amazing.

“Their parents are so supportive of the Irish language that they’re also learning some gaeilge on Duolingo to learn their own focal cúpla.

“The children have developed really well over the last few weeks and months, and it’s good for the parents to see that they made the right decision by sending their children here because the level of education is really very raised.”

Following the visit to the school, Cllr Kavanagh said he was “blown away” by how quickly the Ukrainian pupils acquired an understanding of the Irish language.

“I think what they are doing is very progressive as a new gaelscoil,” South Dublin Mayor Cllr Peter Kavanagh told The Echo.

“I love what they do for children with additional needs and the work they do is absolutely amazing.

“I was surprised when some Ukrainian refugees greeted me in Irish when I arrived at school.

“The principal, Sinéad Bheilbigh, is doing an incredible job with the school.

“The school is great for the kids, great for the community and great for the Irish language.”

With a focus on providing an unrivaled student to teacher ratio, Gaelscoil Lir has seen all of its Junior Infants students thrive.

“Achieving a level of proficiency in Irish through English is really quite difficult because you only tackle the language for a few hours a week,” explains director Bheilbigh.

“What we have seen, especially with so few of them at the start of the year, is that the understanding of the children is incredible.

“They are already able to express themselves through Irish at such a good level already for Junior Infants that I am confident they will all reach a level of fluency in sixth grade.

“Statistics and research show that reading scores in Irish are higher than in English schools.

“So what we’re seeing is that learning through Irish doesn’t hinder them in any way, it actively contributes to an increased level of understanding.”

Sylvester L. Goldfarb