Special Feature

Michael Quinlan's Mission to South Africa

Retired Thurles School Principal is heading up an education programme in South Africa

Noel Dundon

Reporter:

Noel Dundon

Email:

nd@tipperarystar.ie

Michael Quinlan

Michael Quinlan

Rahealty man Michael Quinlan has taken leave of absence from his current work in Mary Immaculate College of Education/ University of Limerick to embark on a project in South Africa.

The former Principal of Rahealty National School in Thurles, Michael Quinlan has taken leave of absence from his current work in Mary Immaculate College of Education/ University of Limerick to embark on a project in South Africa designed to improve access to good quality primary education for the most disadvantaged.

VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) is an organisation which supports disadvantaged communities throughout the world in 4 main development areas-Health, Education, Participation and Governance and Engineering. They operate by recruiting people with expertise and skills in these areas and placing them at the heart of these developments where they work with local agents already working in these disciplines to achieve a better life for all concerned.

Michael, who has vast experience of the education sector in Ireland will work in the selected area-especially with young girls who are regularly taken out of school at age ten to be prepared for early motherhood and a life of drudgery and often abuse.

"We want to develop the quality of school leadership and management at school levels to increase the capacity of principals, deputy principals and DEAs to support primary grade teachers in providing more child centred and better resourced enjoyable learning experiences in language and literacy", says Michael.

"There is very strong clear empirical evidence that equates the quality of leadership to school improvement and learning. Obviously out of school factors such as parental involvement and support and socio-economic circumstances need also to be addressed.

“I will be working in the Teacher Training College/University of Pretoria with responsibility for a selected group of schools, their principals and other stakeholders. We hope that by improving classroom techniques so that lessons are more child centred, practical and interactive more children will leave primary school with skills and knowledge that will improve their life chances and perhaps break the vicious cycle of young girls especially dropping out of school far too soon,” Michael told The Tipperary Star this week.

A long time member of Thurles Rugby Club, Michael will be working closely with Government Offices and the Ministry of Education in assessment, strategic planning, curriculum development and monitoring and evaluation.

VSO is funded partly by world governments and other benefactors but also relies heavily on the charity of individuals. In Michael's own case there is dire need for funding to provide better resources and teaching materials to the many underfunded, underprivileged and overcrowded schools.

“I can personally guarantee that any funds raised by me or on my behalf will go directly to where they are most needed. I have been bowled over by the spontaneous generosity of so many people since the news of my mission spread and I want to thank all those who have already contributed and they are acknowledged on my Altruism web page the link for which can be found on my Facebook page.

“I also wish to acknowledge the generosity of my successor Ms. Edel Kelly and Rahealty N.S and Tom Commins and his '76 Rugby Double Anniversary Committee .

“Former Thurles Town Councillor Noel O'Dwyer-no stranger to these pages-and a lifelong friend of my own has kindly recruited his friends of The Rahealty Community Centre to run an Afternoon Tea Party at their centre on January 29th and all are welcome to come along to this and support the venture.

“And my old friend "Skinner" O'Brien offered to run a Table Quiz in the Monk's Pub on Friday last, January 20th to add some fun to the arduous task of fund raising.

“Mr. Jackie Chill T.D. has also kindly offered to put his shoulder to the wheel and I am so very grateful to all concerned. VSO and I will be grateful for any amount regardless of how much or how little given.

“I see my mission as an opportunity to give something back where it is most needed and as a prayer to my dear wife Nano who sadly passed away last year. Go ndéana Dia trócaire uirthi,” Michael said.

Fundraising events for such initiatives are always difficult but in this case, those supporting the fundraisers are happy in the knowledge that the monies raised will be put to very good use - every single penny counts and Michael, while very conscious of theconstant and enormous draw on peoples finances, is exceptionally humbled by the generosity of all those who have put their hands in their pockets to support his venture.

Michael had the pleasure of teaching three of the members of Irelands Fittest Families - the Cummins' from Rahealty - and he claims to have been 'not a bit surprised' by their success.

“I am proud to say that I had the pleasure of teaching those fine young children and believe me it was no surprise to me to see them do so well because they also excelled on the sports field of Rahealty N.S,” he said.