Afghan-born student takes long route to exam success

Fatema Sadeqi hopes to study medicine

Mature student: Fatema Sadeqi (23) took Leaving Cert exams in physics and chemistry as part of the Vocational Training and Opportunity Scheme. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Mature student: Fatema Sadeqi (23) took Leaving Cert exams in physics and chemistry as part of the Vocational Training and Opportunity Scheme. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

many young students, many others take the road less travelled to their exams.

Fatema Sadeqi (23) and Seán O’Connor (41) took Leaving Cert exams in physics and chemistry as part of the Vocational Training and Opportunity Scheme (VTOS).

The two-year programme, which allows mature students to complete their Junior Cert in the first year and their Leaving Cert in the second, is offered nationally via Education and Training Boards.

Ms Sadeqi and Mr O’Connor were sitting their Junior Cert exams this year, but took on two Leaving Cert exams to expand their workload.

Mr O’Connor from Clara, Co Offaly, left school six months before he was due to sit his Leaving Cert. He went on to Fás qualifications in construction before moving to the UK.

He returned to Ireland in 2011 to look for work and decided to return to school and complete a VTOS programme.

He has a five-year-old son who lives in the UK with his mother. “That was one of the main reasons for going back. I wanted to make sure he would be provided for.”

Ms Sadeqi, who lives in Tullamore, Co Offaly, with her mother and two brothers, was born in Afghanistan, before moving to Iran as a young child.

When she arrived in Iran, the family had no citizenship papers, and couldn’t register in public schools.

After three years in the country, Fatema enrolled in a public school, but just before she finished secondary school, the family relocated to Syria.

As refugees registered with the UNHCR, Fatema and her family were sent to Ireland after three years in Damascus.

The two students will be sitting their remaining Leaving Cert subjects next year. Ms Sadeqi hopes to study medicine and Mr O’Connor is considering careers in forensics or teaching.

The future looks promising, for both, with Mr O’Connor taking home a B2 in physics and a B1 in chemistry, and Ms Sadeqi earning two A1s.