Sunday 26 February 2017

Brave Libyans flee turmoil to sit Leaving Cert

Katherine Donnelly and Ralph Riegel

No Libyan students turned up yesterday at a special Leaving Certificate exams centre set up on the Mediterranean island of Malta.

The centre is geared to cater for students who had been planning to do the exam in Libya before unrest hit the country earlier this year.

Meanwhile, 14 Libyan-based pupils have travelled to Ireland and are doing the exams at centres in Cork, Dublin and Limerick.

Tripoli's International School of Martyrs (ISM) wanted an internationally regarded exam and has offered the Leaving Certificate since the 1990s. It had 66 pupils entered for the exam this year.

Because of the ongoing turbulence, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) made arrangements for candidates to sit the exams either in Malta or Ireland.

Two SEC exam supervisors are in Malta, but none of the expected candidates turned up at the centre.

An SEC spokesperson said because of the security climate there, communications with the school in Libya were difficult.

"Contact with the school has been problematic and was mostly by way of email, which has been intermittent on occasion," said a spokesperson.

It was advised by the school two weeks ago that 10 candidates were in Malta awaiting their examinations and it is understood 31 possible other candidates did not secure entry visas to travel to Malta.

Reviewed

The SEC is now trying to contact the school authorities. The examination centre in Malta will remain open until tomorrow, when the situation will be reviewed.

As well as communicating via the ISM school, candidates and their families who made direct contact with the SEC were asked to spread the word among their classmates about the arrangements.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, the Irish Embassy in Malta and the Maltese Ministry of Education were also involved.

Some students who travelled to Ireland following the outbreak of political unrest in Libya were facilitated in completing their study for the Leaving Certificate in schools. Others arrived more recently.

Among them are nine Libyan teens who moved to Ballincollig, Co Cork, in February. They have been living with local families and studied at the local Colaiste Choilm.

They came to the Ballincollig school thanks to their teacher, James Cunningham, who taught there before comm- encing contract work in Libya.

Colaiste Choilm principal Pat Kinsella said: "It is quite remarkable how well these youngsters have gotten on given all that they have had to go through this year."

He said other students had been exceptionally kind in helping support the Libyan students -- and Colaiste Choilm teachers volunteered to provide whatever extracurricular supports were required.

The teens declined to comment yesterday on the situation in Libya for personal reasons, with several of the youngsters having lost loved ones or friends in the ongoing bitter fighting and air-strikes.

Irish Independent

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