A Small School About People

Clare Champion, Friday, 19th March 1999

Education is as much about people as the academic subjects taught. And, in a small, rural school in West Clare, that ethos brings a unique vibrancy and focus to the local community.

St. Cuan's Primary School in Kilbaha was built in 1962 and today has a roll call of twenty-eight pupils with two teachers - Principal, Mary Roche and her colleague, Mary P. Lynch. Children mix at all levels and teachers believe it is a better mix precisely because there is a greater dependence on one another in such a small school. Visitiors to St. Cuan's invariably comment on the intimate family atmosphere, the community spirit and the personal interaction that is part of the youngsters' education.

Big days for the children such as First Communion, Confirmation and the school concert, are days of celebration for the community as a whole. And teachers are very conscious of the richness of Kilbaha's tradition and folklore. The children come to school with a knowledge and appreciation of their heritage which has been taught them by their parents and the school aims to continue this education and to foster a love and awareness of their unique background. Ms. Roche and Ms. Lynch say the fact that the famous church adjacent to the school has been a great help in this regard, generating many interesting projects over the years.

The school's naming for the local Saint Cuan provides just one example of the sort of project regularly undertaken by the children. In fact, it recently inspired an archaeological study of the ruins of Teampall Na Naoimh by the children. The trip also took in a visit to a holy well associated with the saint. Tradition has it that visits to the well cured a variety of eye ailments and the youngsters are presently carring out a study on the feasibility of once again making it accessible to the public. They argue that this might even encourage visitors to the area and thereby benefit the entire community.

The partnership approach to education is another tradition alive and well in Kilbaha with teachers pointing out that parents always lend great support when it comes to extra-curricular activities. This has resulted in many achievements. A team from St. Cuan's, for example, has won the local heat of the Credit Union Quiz on five occasions in the last six years and has captured the top award in the local heat of the quiz competition run by the Irish Kidney Association four years running.

Their record in the Cadbury School Quiz is likewise superb. Not only did St. Cuan's emerge top of the Clare Schools in 1996 and again in '98 but they went on to fly the Banner County colours at the national finals in Dublin where they finished joint third and joint sixth in Ireland.

There have also been substantial achievements on the artistic front with one pupil taking first place in the Clare GAA Art Competition while others were winners at provincial level in Credit Union Art events.

Classes in swimming, music and dancing are also enjoyed by the pupils with the girls' set recently capturing a major prize at the annual dancing competition in Cooraclare. The children are also busy at the moment composing stories for the Write-A-Book project organised by the Clare Teachers' Centre. Four students were presented with prizes in the same event last year.

The children recently completed a project on Shannon Airport for the millennium and have a well stocked school library to help them in their research. They are also proficient on the information technology front and have use of the school computers and access to the Internet when compiling their projects.

Question time at Kilbaha N.S.     Round the house they go during John
Fennell's set dancing class in Kilbaha N.S.

Photographs by John Kelly, Clare Champion.

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