[Sinn Fein]

30th July 2002

Government decision will increase inequality in education

Sinn Fein spokesperson on Science and Education, Seán Crowe TD will attend today's rally in Dublin in support of students opposition to the 69% increase in capitation fees introduced by the Education and Science Minister Noel Dempsey. The protest will take place on the Liffey Boardwalk, off O'Connell Bridge at 1.45pm.

Speaking in advance of the protest, Deputy Crowe said:

``Free education is a myth. The education system continues to mirror and maintain social division and exclusion. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are still extremely unlikely to reach university and are more likely to leave school early.

``According to the Higher Education Authority there has been no significant improvement in the number of school-leavers from disadvantaged backgrounds reaching university over the past five years. Of 14,000 students graduating from universities in this State, only 2.2% come from households headed by an unskilled or semiskilled worker.

``The abolition of university fees has done nothing to help the children of the least well off to get into college. They still cannot get to the starting line because of the prohibitive costs of going to college. And the decision to increase capitation fees by 69% will make this situation even more difficult. I am calling of the Minister to recind this decision and to address the issue of access to education in a holistic way from pre-school right through to third level. In the short term the Minister should increase the student maintenance grant to social welfare levels.''

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