Information technology course to offer 60 places to single mothers

Minister for Children to launch course provided by An Cosán centre in west Dublin

Minister for Children and  An Cosán co-founder Katherine Zappone will officially launch the new course in ICT on Monday. Photograph: Eric Luke

Minister for Children and An Cosán co-founder Katherine Zappone will officially launch the new course in ICT on Monday. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Intelligence is classless, a leading education rights advocate has said, announcing details of a new course aimed at helping single mothers who left school early.

Liz Waters, chief executive of the An Cosán education centre in west Tallaght, said the new course in ICT (information and communication technology) would have 60 places between Tallaght and inner-city Dublin specifically for single mothers.

The course will be officially launched on Monday by Minister for Children and co-founder of An Cosán, Katherine Zappone. Its timing this week is to coincide with International Women’s Day, which is on Friday.

“The course recognises the current environment in which the majority of jobs now require basic digital skills, while 52 per cent of Irish adults don’t have these,” said Ms Waters. “A young mother, who may have left school early, is not going to be able to lift her family out of poverty without these skills.”

Conversely, a mother who has these and can access the jobs market at a professional level will be able to exit poverty, she said.

Among those who have been through the An Cosán programme is Sharon Salinger (31), from Jobstown. She was so devastated with grief following the stillbirth of her first son, Cian, when she was 16 that she found it difficult to focus at school.

When she became pregnant with the same partner at 17 she experienced such heightened anxiety through the pregnancy she left school, despite the encouragement and support from her teachers. “School and being so anxious and protective about myself at the time weren’t compatible,” she said.

Sharon Salinger said the An Cosán programme “built me as a person and a woman”.
Sharon Salinger said the An Cosán programme 'built me as a person and a woman'.

About six months after Ross’s birth a key-worker recommended she try the Young Women in Education programme at An Cosán where she could access high-quality childcare and meals as part of the course.

As well as computer literacy and childcare courses to Fetac level 4, Ms Salinger did personal development, counselling, writing and drama courses which she said “gave me freedom to express myself, to be free ... The course built me as a person and a woman”.

She went on to complete a diploma in journalism at Ballyfermot College, a higher diploma in social studies and she plans to go to NUI Maynooth. She now has two children – Bella (4) and Ross (12).

“I think, coming from a disadvantaged area like Jobstown, there are more opportunities now, like An Cosán and Foróige for young people. An Cosán, for me, was somewhere that believed in me so I could believe in myself. And it was the supports – the childcare especially, which allowed me do that.”