Children attending a national school just outside Kilkenny City are unable to access parts of their curriculum due to a lack of high speed broadband in the area.
Johnswell National School was refurbished in 2007 and along with a dedicated library, sports hall and basketball court, each classroom was fitted with an interactive white board. These whiteboards connect to a computer and allow students to control what is on screen using a pen, finger or stylus.
Perhaps most importantly, they allow teachers access videos and information online that form part of the primary school curriculum. However in Johnswell that is proving to be impossible, as teacher Nicola Garrahy explains.
“We have what can only be described as an atrocious internet connection. The average broadband speed in the Democratic Republic of Congo is faster than the speed here in Johnswell. That’s what we’re dealing with. Loading up videos that are connected to subjects like our maths programme or English or Irish programme is impossible so the children can’t use them”
According to Nicola, high speed internet access is a vital part of the modern teaching process.
“Every school programme now is backed up by so much online resources and these need to be done in school with a teacher.”
Parents of children attending Johnswell NS are equally unimpressed with the lack of high speed broadband. Helen Carroll lives nearby and her daughter is a student in the school.
“They’re at a disadvantage in country schools when it comes to access and knowledge of computers and you could argue that they could brush up at home but with the speed of internet we have in homes here in Johnswell, that’s just not going to happen either.”
Last week the Kilkenny People revealed that 27 rural areas in the county were being considered as part of a nationwide rollout of high powered fibre optic broadband. The scheme forms part of the Government’s National Broadband Plan and relies on the use of already existing ESB infrastructure.
Unfortunately Johnswell is understood not to be included meaning that Nicola Garrahy and her colleagues will have to continue to work with their current level of internet access.
“In 2014 it’s an absolute joke that a school with all the equipment that we have, that the Department insisted we get, can’t be used. It’s there in the school but it’s just not viable to use any of it”.