Hunger is a reality in Inishowen schools

Up to 20% of students are arriving at school or going to bed hungry due to neglect or inequality, a former Donegal deputy principal has claimed.

Former deputy principal of Carndonagh Community School, Carmel Doherty told a conference on the subject of inequality in society that she personally witnessed that up to 20% of students going hungry on a regular basis.

A teacher for 25 years, she said it was not until she became deputy principal for seven and half years that she “woke up to reality” that some pupils experience.

“My God I woke up to reality because I dealt with kids coming in. 20% of the kids in that school came in either hungry or neglected.

“That was the reality,” she told the audience at the event hosted by Sinn Fein on Friday in Letterkenny.

She added: “I could tell you stories about kids that had no where to go.

“Those kids sat with me after school rather than go home.

” This, she claimed, prompted her to establish a “coffee dock” in the school that provided these children with food and hot drinks. This, she added, was not sustainable.

“It made a huge difference but it was done to scale.

“You cannot do that for a thousand pupils. You just can’t do it.”

Commenting on a presentation at the event by academic Dr Paul Downes, who said research showed that up 20% of school children go to school, or to bed, hungry and that “student hunger” was a major issue in Irish schools, Ms Doherty said her experience confirmed this.

“Everything Paul said is true. They are not treated equally,” she said.

“The really sad thing about this is children from the most disadvantaged homes are most likely to be the most disruptive and they get the least attention.”