Students learn how to value their home areas

 

Transition-year students in Co Laois are taking part in an innovative Community Development Programme which is fast catching on in other parts of the country.

The young people are being taught how to appreciate their own native place and suggest ideas on how to develop their local areas for the good of the community.

The project has been designed by Bernadette Cullen of the Laois LEADER rural development programme, who believes such training may become part of the transition-year currriculum.

"With the assistance of Bridie Corkery, the transition-year co-ordinator, and the Laois Teachers' Centre, we drew up a 10-part course for the students," Ms Cullen said this week.

"We tell them about community development and then we bring them to places in the county which have been developed by locals and show them what is happening."

The young people have been taken to the heritage centre in Abbeyleix and to a lake at nearby Ballacolla which has been developed by local people as a coarse fishing centre.

"It is quite amazing that the children who do not live that far away from this area were unaware of what was being done at these centres," said Ms Cullen.

She said the students were then given statistics from their own areas and asked to focus on them, drawing up a list of the benefits and deficits of their home locations.

"The problem with Laois is that it is being undervalued by its own people and we want to rectify that. This course is one way of doing it," she added.

"We in LEADER believe that imparting this sense of identity and understanding at this level will pay long-term dividends and develop the community leaders of the future," Ms Cullen said.