The thing that differentiates one young person from another is not ability, but access to opportunity.

Posted On: June 20, 2018

But what if you are denied that access?

This is the reality for hundreds of young people living in Direct Provision. They go to school, they study, and they sit their Leaving Certificate. And they do so knowing that regardless of how well they do, their chance of moving onto 3rd level education is slim.

The young people I am talking about must meet a series of restrictive criteria to access any educational support from the Irish State. A Scheme, which was introduced in 2015, provides supports in line with the current Student Grant Scheme to eligible school leavers who are in the protection system, as long as they meet the following criteria:

  • Meet the definition of a protection applicant or a person at leave to remain stage (other than those at the deportation order stage);
  • Obtained their Leaving Certificate;
  • Have been accepted on an approved Post Leaving Certificate course or an approved undergraduate course;
  • Have attended a minimum of five academic years in the Irish school system; and
  • Have been part of an application for protection or leave to remain for a combined period of 5 years

Since the scheme was introduced in 2015 only five young people have met the criteria.

That five year rule could easily be changed. A rule that if relaxed, could open doors and create brighter futures for the small number of young people completing their Leaving Certificate each year.

So what if we extend an opportunity to young people in our asylum system? Offer a hand, open that door and give them a fair chance at a brighter future?

I administer a Fund that offers opportunity – the opportunity to progress, to advance, to be further educated. Each year I get to deliver good news (and bad) to people who apply for the fund.  I hear of the desperation of those who have to sit idle for another year without funding and I see the dedication and drive of the people who receive support to pursue their education.

Just last week two of last year’s beneficiaries dropped me a line to let me know how they got on. Lonje included a scan of his results transcript – 11 distinctions on his Sports and Recreation Course. His email was followed by one from Jayson, who graduated as Student of the Year on his course in Motor Technology.

So what differentiates Lonje and Jayson from other young people? Yes, access and opportunity, but also their sheer drive and determination to succeed. You see, when access and opportunity are limited, you tend to grab them with both hands when they present themselves. I see this trait in all the people the IRC Education Fund has supported over the years.

Education is vital for many reasons – it is an investment in our future, in our country, in our progress. It is also vital for integration. Why are we letting bright young people sit idly in State reception centres, years passing them by? Why is there resistance to investing in their future, be it here in Ireland or elsewhere?

Given opportunity, people excel. When people excel, society prospers.

~ Charlotte Byrne, Education Officer

To contact Charlotte, please email education@irishrefugeecouncil.ie