‘State dependency’ for many non-Irish school leavers
2018-12-01 13:17:25 -
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By Chinedu Onyejelem

 

Fears that the inability of young non-Irish nationals in direct provision to access third-level education would make them permanently dependent on the State were reiterated recently.

Marking World Access to Higher Education Day on 28 November, the Irish Refugee Council (IRC) highlighted extraordinary barriers young people are facing in their ambitions for further study or training.

Concern was particularly strong for those who have completed or are about to complete their Leaving Certificate.

The first World Access to Higher Education Day — aimed at raising global awareness about inequalities in access to higher education — coincided with an award from UCD extolling the contributions of the IRC’s education officer in helping people to access education.

“Today is an opportunity to draw attention to the ongoing issue of education access for people in the asylum system,” said Charlotte Byrne in her acceptance speech.

“Since 2015 [the IRC’s] education fund has offered financial assistance to more than 100 people in the asylum process. This number has grown annually thanks to generous support from members of the public and corporate donors.”

Byrne said the IRC’s fund data shows that “early investment and access to further education means that people are in a strong position, once they receive their status, to work or  continue higher education.

“It also improves mental health and wellbeing while people wait during the asylum process which can take at least two to three years to complete.”

Byrne highlighted how the 2015 Government pilot support scheme for school leavers in the asylum process has been a failure.

“The scheme was intended to facilitate young people in direct provision to move on to third level education after finishing school. Over three years, only five people have been granted support from a total of 59 applications due to the restrictive nature of the eligibility criteria.”

Byrne added that it is uncertain how many applied for the scheme in 2018 following a delay by the Government in green-lighting the scheme to continue until after all CAO offers were already out.

“There are currently 226 young people between the ages of 13 and 17 in direct provision with little prospect of accessing third-level education after completing their Leaving Certificate unless the prohibitive criteria to the pilot scheme are changed,” she said.

Meanwhile, several beneficiaries of IRC’s education fund have spoken of the significance of the financial assistance they received has helped them to move on on the educational ladder.

“Education is one of the most important things. It is so hard when you love studying but you cannot access university because you are an asylum seeker,” said Juliana, who did not give her surname.

“I have spent three years in secondary school, achieved the course that I wanted to do but could not go to university because I was not eligible for the pilot student grant because it requires five years’ residence. I really hope that this is going to change and that everyone can have the right to study.”

For Pride, another beneficiary, hope for those in the asylum system would be completely lost without the IRC’s funding.

“In the direct provision system, the clock stops until a decision on your case is made. The longer you wait the greater the chance that you end up becoming a liability to the State because your skill set for the job market depreciates.”

He added: “Education helps to keep the clock running. Rather than starting from scratch, education puts one in a position to get a good job, afford a decent life, and become a person with civic responsibilities through paying taxes, and giving back to Irish society.”

 

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