Committee Sends DARD Back to School

Session: 2008/2009

Date: 19 March 2009

Reference: AGR 05/08/09

The Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development has today criticised the Department for its lack of support for education in rural areas.

The Committee, which was meeting at the Loughry Campus of the College for Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), received representations from students attending courses on offer at Loughry campus and then met with students and local businesses during a tour of the Food Technology units. The Committee then travelled to the Rural College in Draperstown and met with part-time students attending the MSc in Rural Sustainable Development.

Chairperson of the Committee, Dr William McCrea said, “It has been said that nine tenths of education is encouragement. Whilst there is an abundance of encouragement to found in CAFRE and at the Rural College, I am afraid that the same cannot be said of senior officials within the central policy units of the Department. These are the same officials who established the Research and Education Advisory Panel, then instructed them to ignore the educational aspect and finally shut them down.

“This is the same Department which has tried to close courses here in Loughry and at the Rural College, the Department which has put the onus on rural communities to seek education rather than proactively offer the encouragement to gain new skills or update existing skills. Finally this is the Department that encourages farmers out of farming but offers no re-skilling programme.

“The Committee has stated that the Department needs to learn its lessons and make education the priority that it deserves and needs to be in the current economic climate.”

ENDS

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