Archbishop shocked that food banks used by some schools

Diarmuid Martin warns Irish education system remains ‘marked by inequality’

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin:  Food banks are called by schools to help children who return after school holidays “visibly thinner”. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: Food banks are called by schools to help children who return after school holidays “visibly thinner”. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Food banks are being regularly contacted by schools to help children who come back after the summer holidays visibly thinner and in need of nourishment, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.

He said he was shocked to hear of this first-hand and added that it was a sign of how Irish education remains “marked by inequality”.

Archbishop Martin made the comments during a Mass to mark the beginning of the new school year at St Patrick’s campus of DCU in Drumcondra on Tuesday evening.

“Schools and students live within a fractured culture. Schools cannot do everything. However, schools are aware of the difficulties their children experience.

“I was shocked to hear from our Crosscare Food Banks how they are regularly called by schools to help children who come back after school holidays visibly thinner and clearly in need of additional nourishment.

“The school cannot do everything but the school is a vital part of the educational village and is very often the barometer of the physical and emotional needs and deficiencies of children and their challenges.”

Community roots

In relation to inequality in education, he said he regularly sees wonderful schools as well as those under-resourced and in poor condition.

“The best schools are those really rooted in their community. I am especially concerned when I find schools in poorer communities with poor facilities. I am concerned about certain groups who experience educational disadvantage.

“I think of the situation of children with autism. Their educational needs require an injection of new resources. Traveller children are still at a disadvantage.”

He also paid tribute to young teachers whose first choice was to teach in the most deprived areas of the Dublin archdiocese. “They have understood what education in a fractured and an unequal culture is about,” he said.

‘Fractured world’

Archbishop Martin said the culture of education must be one that embraces and loves and offers an atmosphere of peace that is distinctive.

“A fractured world requires a culture that integrates, which welcomes each individual to find a critical path of peace and serenity and hope for himself or herself within all the diversity of our world,” he said.

A Catholic school is not just an “archive of baptismal certificates and admission certs”, he said, but one which should reflect what the “wonderful reality of what Baptism means”.

“Through Baptism, all are recognised as children of the one God, with the same opportunities and aspirations and hopes to realise the unique dignity that belongs to each of them,” he said.

“That is what education is about and for a Catholic school to do less would be a betrayal of the work of the Spirit.”