Reducing pupil teacher ratio to 10:1 “will not bankrupt the country” says Lenihan

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The €25 billion cost of reducing the pupil teacher ratio in all primary schools to 10:1 for the next 20 years is “manageable” and will not bankrupt the country, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has contended.

Following consultations with his government colleagues and with the EU Commission, Mr. Lenihan said that the children of Ireland had had to live with the problems caused by the economic policies of his and previous governments and had had to “navigate some very difficult waters”.

But “we need now to set out a clear course for the children of this country and how they will be derisked from these economic problems,” he continued.  The Minister said that the alternative of continuing to allow Irish primary school children to be taught in the largest classes in Europe was “unthinkable” and asserted there could be no defaulting on the futures of this generation of schoolchildren.

“Yes the costs associated with this policy are annoying and infuriating but they are manageable,” said Mr. Lenihan.

 

Taoiseach Brian Cowen revealed that the cabinet had been divided on whether to pursue this policy but insisted that all government ministers only wanted what “was in the best interests of the citizens and taxpayers” and that all options had been looked at.

 

Breaking cabinet confidentiality, the Taoiseach revealed that among the other items considered by the government for the spending of the €25 billion[i] were to

*build 75 new 50-teacher schools and run them for 75 years
* build 35 children’s hospitals (based on the €700 million cost of a new children’s hospital in Dublin)
*pay for an extra 5,000 hospital consultants for 62.5 years, based on the Finnish wage (or for 29 years based on Irish wages)
*pay for cervical cancer vaccines for every girl going into first year for the next 8,333 years
*give an ultra-high-speed fiberoptic broadband connection to every single house (including those in ghost estates)
*buy 8,500 years of private speech and language counselling and really help autistic and speech-problematic children
*introduce free pre-schooling for 32 years, based on an average cost of €700 a month for two years of 10 months, for all 110,000 children in the country
*make education properly free - the current cost from primary school to degree graduation is €70,000 per child. €25 billion would put nearly 400,000 students through their entire education
*give medical cards to everyone for 25 years, based on €500million cost in 2009 to cover 1.5million people
*renew and replace the drainage and water systems of all main cities

 

“I am satisfied we have made the correct decision,” said Mr. Lenihan, “I am confident that the €25 billion cost of this project can be absorbed by the public purse.”

 

The government’s initiative has been widely welcomed.  “It makes complete sense to do this.  How else would they spend the money – give it to some crooked property developers and bankers?” commented one four-year-old.

Words: Gregor Kerr

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