LIVING and working in a rural parish, I am greatly inspired and convinced that small schools play a fundamental role in the community … not just regarding their educational function, but their spirit, which breathes new life and energy into local neighbourhoods.

The recent McCarthy Report has recommended the closure of all schools where fewer than 50 pupils attend. Our present government hasn’t closed any schools yet, but is changing the pupil/ teacher ratio.

An important meeting will take place on Thursday 15 March at 8pm in the Lyrath Hotel, Kilkenny to protest and defend the integrity and invaluable contribution small schools achieve every day, not just to the lives of our young people but as a life-giving benefactor to the wider, rural community.

Small schools must not be labelled ‘out of date’ or ‘unnecessary’.

When I visit some of our small schools, I often marvel at their energy and very personal formation.

Such schools afford young people a wonderful opportunity to achieve the best possible standard of education.  Already, the closure of garda stations and rural post offices had a devastating effect on rural Ireland.

Such places not only provide their primary function but provide people with an opportunity to interact, engage and build a community.   Often, smaller schools facilitate local meetings and community events.

Te mere noise of activity and play of a vibrant, small school can offer hope and company to elderly folk who live nearby. I strongly believe that the closure of small schools will result in a terrible loss of vibrancy and energy and cause further social isolation to rural Ireland.

Education is key to building a successful future for the lives of our young people.

I was greatly saddened last week by a front page editorial and photo on the Irish Times, displaying massive queues of young adults attending the international job-seekers’ fair.

Emigration is a dreadful consequence of this horrible recession.  Very few families are not directly affected by the reality of a loved one’s absence because of emigration.  Simply, our most talented and educated generation ever has very little opportunity to gain employment at home. However, education will always lead to opportunity.

Highly qualified young adults are now extremely successful because of their education formation and they are highly respected and valued right throughout the world.

Education minister Rúairí Quinn has placed enormous emphasis on numeracy and literacy as key components of our primary school formation.

I imagine that, in small schools, this work is being as diligently followed through as in the larger urban schools across the country.

Reading inspection reports affirms the high standard and best practice adhered to by such schools.

I am convinced and passionately believe that our small schools need to be protected and safeguarded from the possibility of closure.

Community and education has a much greater value than the business of mere economics.