My story: In Direct Provision, I missed meals if they clashed with classes'
Bongani Nkosi Biomedical Science, NUI Galway
When Bongani Nkosi did his Leaving Certificate in 2013, going straight into third-level was not an option.
He couldn’t afford it because his asylum seeker status meant he wasn’t entitled to a grant.
He had arrived in Ireland from Malawi in 2009 and attended Ballyhaunis Community School, Co Mayo, where he lived with his family.
After his Leaving Cert, Bongani was offered a place on Medical Biotechnology in IT Sligo, but had to turn it down because of his financial circumstances.
But he worked out another route to further his education and enrolled in Galway Technical Institute, to study information technology. Following that, he successfully applied for the Access course at NUI Galway, signing up for the science stream.
That was only the beginning for this highly motivated student, who had also come up with an idea for funding his third-level studies.
“After I completed the Access course, I applied to the Ryan Foundation Scholarship and the Irish Refugee Council funding scheme and the two boards saw my potential.”
With their financial backing, Bongani (20) has just completed first year of Biomedical Science at NUI Galway, a successful year that was capped by gaining residency status in Ireland.
Having residency status makes a big difference because it means that Bongani can move out of Direct Provision and can also apply for a SUSI grant to support him in college.
He says that “living in a hostel, my meal times were fixed by management in their favour and my weekly allowance was €19.10. I had to miss meals regularly if I had a class during breakfast, lunch or dinner which were served from 9am to 10.30am, noon to 2pm and 5pm to 6.30pm, respectively.
“Somehow I had to manage and maintain my weekly allowance so that I didn’t starve. Why didn’t I get a part-time job to feed myself when I needed to? The direct provision system doesn’t allow asylum seekers to work.”
Bongani says that based on his personal experiences his advice to other students is to “aim high and put in the hard work no matter what kid of obstacles you may encounter”.