Monday 23 September 2019

Education Minister to 'help' asylum seeker student to pay for college... but just how remains unclear

Anna Kern
Anna Kern
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

A asylum seeker who had appealed for support from the State to fund her college education after getting a high mark in the Leaving Cert may be granted her wish.

Anna Kern, who came to Ireland from the Ukraine with her mother two years ago, achieved 575 points in her Leaving Cert on Wednesday.

However, she is in the Direct Provision system and has no means of paying for third level education

Not being able to access State support such as the SUSI grant and the “free” fees scheme, Anna had appealed to Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan to intervene.

The student told RTE's Morning Ireland radio show that she received a call from Minister O'Sullivan yesterday evening that may mean that her "dream" of studying physiothereapy at RCSI becomes a reality.

Read more: 'I want to study here, I want to work here' - Student who achieved 575 points in Leaving Cert appeals for State support

"She told me that I should accept my offer on Monday. She said that she has contacted RCSI and that they will work something out," Anna said.

"That means if I get a place on Monday I can accept it. I want to thank Jan O'Sullivan for her help and support."

However, it is unclear specifically what the education minister is offering the young student.

Currently living in Direct Provision accommodation in Knocknasheen, Co Limerick, neither Anna or her mother are permitted to work until they receive refugee status. 

The principal of Coláiste Nano Nagle in Limerick,  Marion Cummins said that while the assurance from Minister O'Sullivan is "wonderful news", there are a number of second level students that will face the same concerns.

"Maybe this case will highlight it for all the others. If you don't speak up, you are not gong to be listened to," she said.

Minister O'Sullivan is said to be working on a new scheme to support asylum seekers in third-level education, to be published in a matter of weeks.

The exact details of the scheme, which follows a June report on the Protection Process by Judge McMahon, have not been finalised as yet.

However, Minister O'Sullivan told the TUI National Conference in April that students who have spent five years or more in the Irish education system "should no longer have to pay any more to access third-level than their Irish friends do".

However, that scheme would be of no benefit to Anna, as she has only spent two years in the Irish education system.

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