Saturday 21 September 2019

Support: Manzi left worrying over how he will pay fees

Determined: Manzi Joseph, from Waterford IT, who hails from Rwanda. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Determined: Manzi Joseph, from Waterford IT, who hails from Rwanda. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

For Manzi Joseph, the approach of a new academic year brings a mix of emotions: the excitement of taking the next step towards his degree, juxtaposed with the worry that he won't be able to register because of a lack of money to pay his fees.

The 22-year-old asylum seeker has relied heavily on crowd-funding to get him through the first two years of his degree in computing at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). He has another two years to go.

With weeks to the start of the college year, Mr Joseph faces the prospect of another fundraising campaign to secure his place, but is reluctant to do so because of some negative reaction he attracted on social media.

"If I don't need to do it, I won't do it, but it will depend on whether I manage to get enough money to pay my fees," he says.

Mr Joseph has been working in retail for the summer and an application to the Irish Refugee Council Education Fund, which was set up in 2017 to assist asylum seekers access further education, is being considered.

He arrived in Ireland, alone from Rwanda, in 2015, but four years on he is stuck in a queue awaiting a decision on his status. While he remains in a legislative limbo, he is not entitled to any State support to help fund his studies.

He can approach Waterford IT's Student Assistance Fund, but the catch-22 there is that first he has to have paid his annual fees of €3,819. Like all students, he also has to find money for books and travel.

In 2017, Mr Joseph was interviewed as part of the refugee protection assessment process, but is still awaiting a decision.

The IRC believes he "went back to zero" as a result of new legislation introduced around that time, which "was intended to reduce waiting times, but commenced with a backlog of cases".

The determination that Mr Joseph is putting into his education was evident when he first arrived in Mosney and did a cookery course, because that was all that was available. When he was moved to Waterford some months later, he started a serious exploration of his study options but, because of his status, was frustrated at every turn.

Eventually, he got on to a course in information technology in St Paul's Community College, because "I knew if I did that course and got good grades, it would get me into Waterford IT. It was brilliant, I got 10 distinctions".

Mr Joseph says there were "circumstances" that led him to come to Ireland and his parents wanted him to be a doctor but "that is not what I wanted; it is computers that I enjoy". Despite his difficulties, he likes Ireland: "I will live my life and remember the past two years, where I have been supported by people and I have no idea who they are."

Irish Independent

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