Up to 50 per cent of students at Galway schools are going without breakfast or lunch as a result of widespread poverty in the city and county, it has been claimed.
A recent meeting of County Galway VEC heard that teachers had reported regular instances of students turning up to school without having eaten breakfast, while others did not have a packed lunch.
Cllr Liam Carroll said that the issue had risen in discussions with a number of schools in the Galway area and he felt it was an problem facing families across the country.
“One principal said that she was aware of teachers sharing their lunches with students in the past. Obviously, the problem has become so acute now, with the number of students coming in, that it is impossible to them to share their lunches. It would be like the loaves and the fishes!” he said.
Cllr Carroll said that, with unemployment currently standing at 450,000, a “new poverty” was affecting Galway households where neither parent was in the workforce, and called for a ‘breakfast club’ system to be implemented across all schools.
“I am aware of schools that have breakfast clubs, providing rolls and milk in the morning, and that is addressing some of the problem, but teachers have huge difficulties with cyberbullying and all the other challenges that they face, which are now exasperated with the employment situation and the current financial state of the country.”
Fellow County Galway Cllr Peter Roche told the Galway Independent this week that the issue had also been brought to his attention in recent times during consultations with schools on the implementation of a counselling network for Galway students. He explained that some principals had said that, while cyberbullying was a serious issue, poverty and a lack of an adequate diet were also leaving some students “emotionally challenged”.
“There are similar problems in every school, I think it’s fair to say. It is fairly widespread and the bottom line is that even if it’s just a handful in a school, it’s still a problem and problems don’t go away without being addressed,” he said.
He said the current situation was “not right or fair” and a system needed to be put in place as a matter of urgency to gain an understanding of the “social problems” that are facing local students.
“One of the things that could be done going forward to address that issue, and indeed other issues, is to have a counsellor visit those schools maybe once or twice a week, so as to engage with those students that are challenged and get an understanding as to what is going on,” he said.
“There are domestic issues, there are some children who are coming from critical financial situations that some families find themselves in. It behoves every school to get a real understanding to the issues that are facing their students.”