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Leaving Cert students in direct provision face barriers to college

Asylum seekers must pay international fees to go on to third level in Ireland

Stanley Petlane: ‘I’m not eligible for the Susi grant because I’m not in Ireland enough years’

Stanley Petlane joined the more than 58,000 Leaving Cert students around the country in nervously opening the envelope containing his exam results on Tuesday morning. He was relieved he had done well and pleasantly surprised by his high score in physics. However, there is no guarantee he will be able to continue on to third level when the CAO offers are released later this week.

Mr Petlane, originally from South Africa, has spent more than two years living in direct provision accommodation in Athlone with his family. Like many students, he found the lead-up to the Leaving Cert exams stressful and recalls his mother noting that he had lost weight. He tried not to focus on his family’s precarious immigration status.

“When you apply for asylum you don’t know when you will receive an answer, so I just focused on the Leaving Cert. I knew when the exams were, I knew when the marks would come out. I just shut out the rest and focused on the exams.”

“But even if I passed I didn’t know if I could move on as I was still an asylum seeker. There was a chance I wouldn’t get into college.”

The Petlane family recently received a recommendation for subsidiary protection and permission to remain in Ireland from immigration officials but are still waiting for the final confirmation letter from the Minister for Justice. If the letter does not come soon, he is unsure whether he will be able to accept his course in computer engineering at Athlone Institute of Technology.

“I can still go and apply with the letter. But I’m not eligible for the Susi grant because I’m not in Ireland enough years. We don’t know what to do for now.”

Expensive fees

Farther west in Co Mayo, Naheeda Jugoo is also facing barriers in continuing her studies. The Leaving Cert student has secured more than enough points to be accepted into the art and design course she applied for at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT). However, as an asylum seeker she is considered an international student and must pay expensive fees to attend the college.

Ms Jugoo has spent the past five years living in the direct provision centre in Ballyhaunis in Co Mayo with her parents and siblings. Her parents are investigating grants and scholarships available to asylum seekers but the young student is afraid she will be unable to attend GMIT.

Naheeda Jugoo

“I’m worried because if we don’t find the money I might not get to go to college,” she said, adding that her parents had contacted the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland for advice on how to seek support. In 2018 it cost a non-EU student €9,500 to attend GMIT for one year.

For now, Ms Jugoo is focused on following her dream of becoming a fashion designer. “My mom is always making new clothes and I’ve always found it very interesting to watch and learn what she does. I’d like to design my own clothes line some day.”

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