Friday, 8th March 2019
Community education requires a national strategy with a cohesive and sustainable funding model led by a single Government department. That’s according to AONTAS, the national adult learning organisation who held a policy event today (08.03.2019) as part of the Adult Learners’ Festival 2019.
Funding for the community education sector is currently split across several Government departments and agencies. Frequently, funding only covers tutor hours and fails to provide for administrative and overhead costs like a centre to provide the programmes in.
The event brought senior civil servants together with adult learners and community education practitioners to hear first-hand the challenge that the disjointed approach to funding presents to a sector that supports the most vulnerable learners in Irish society.
Speaking at the event, Niamh O’Reilly, CEO of AONTAS, said: “Community education has a track record of engaging the most hard to reach adult learners through programmes that respond to the needs of local communities. It is not merely a tool for getting people back to work – although many learners do secure employment – but a way to support community cohesion and civic engagement.
Also speaking at the event Tara Farrell, Chairperson of AONTAS, said: “There has been an historic and consistent lack of sustainable funding for community education. To meet the needs of learners and communities, a new sustainable, multi-annual funding model for community education is needed delivered under a national strategy for the sector. The contribution made by community education to creating a more socially and economically inclusive society are too great be ignored.”
Learner Panel Discussion
In addition to roundtable discussions, the event featured a learner panel on the impact of community education on the lives of women, their families and their communities to mark International Women’s Day. During the panel discussion, Maria O’Reilly from Warrenmount Community Education Centre spoke about her experience of community education.
Maria, said: “I literally ran out of the school building on my last day vowing never to again sit in a classroom. Fast forward 26 years and I entered the Warrenmount Community Education Centre to attend a local history course as it suited the time my little boy was in school. From the first class I was hooked. It was like my brain had been switched on. I discovered a love of learning and somewhere along the way also discovered a sense of self-worth that I didn't know was missing!”
The policy event rounded off the annual Adult Learners’ Festival 2019, a week-long celebration of learning, organised by AONTAS from 4th – 8th March.