‘I would have loved to stay in one place for my education’

Immanuel Chirwa (18) is one of 22 asylum seekers who sat this year’s Leaving Cert

Immanuel Jayden Chirwa (18), originally from South Africa, is one of about 22 asylum seekers who sat the Leaving Cert this year.

He lives in Mosney direct provision centre in Co Meath with his mother and sister aged six.

They have been in the asylum process for eight years and have lived in four direct provision centres.

A song-writer, he would like to study music at third level. However, he did not do as well as he had hoped in the Leaving Cert.


While he declined to say how many points he got, he said he “probably would have done better” had he not had to switch secondary school four times and had he not had to miss so much school because his mother had to bring him with her to Dublin up to one day a week to “sign on” with immigration authorities.

He has been in secondary schools in Galway city, Clifden, Co Galway, Tramore, Co Waterford, and, most recently Drogheda.

In first year, when the family lived in Lisbrook House direct provision centre in Galway, he went to school in Moneenageisha.


In second year, because he was of an age where legally he could not share a bedroom with his mother and sister, they were moved to Dun Gibbons accommodation centre in Clifden.

The Dun Gibbons centre closed in September 2012, and the family was moved to Tramore, Co Waterford. He started fourth year there.

While he made good friends, he also experienced violent bullying.

His mother, fearing for his safety, requested a transfer, and in July 2013 they were moved to Mosney.

No school place could be found for him until October, and so he began his Leaving Cert year two months late.

The classes for most of his preferred subjects were already full.

“I would have preferred biology, physics, woodwork and geography, but I was forced to do classical studies, French, and Spanish.

“In English, they had already started the texts, A Doll’s House, The King’s Speech and How Many Miles to Babylon? And it was hard to catch up.”


During first year his mother had to sign on weekly with the Garda National

Immigration Bureau

in Dublin and had to bring the children with her.

In second year she could sign on in Galway but she still had to take Immanuel out of school each time to present him to the authorities.

"I used to ask why, when Ireland wants you to be at school every day, I had to miss school to go and sit with her for hours. She didn't have an answer."

Asked whether he would have done better had life been more stable, he nods, saying: “No one can know for sure, but I probably would have done better. I would have loved to stay in one place for my education.”

He is not sure what he will do next, thinking he may repeat his Leaving.

“I get down. I usually express it by writing songs. I write blues mixed with r’n’b. I daydream that one day I’ll buy my mum a house and I’ll be doing concerts.

“All I really want to do is disappear into a studio and write my music.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times