Woman in direct provision wins ‘life-changing’ scholarship

Mother among 17 asylum seekers accepted on to programme at University of Limerick

Donna Vuma, along with her three young children, fled Zimbabwe three years ago. Photograph: David Raleigh

Donna Vuma, along with her three young children, fled Zimbabwe three years ago. Photograph: David Raleigh


A mother of three living in direct provision has described winning a University of Limerick scholarship as a “life-changing moment”, as she pursues her dream of a career in psychology.

Donnah Vuma (31) is one of 17 people accepted on to the Place of Sanctuary scholarship programme at UL. The scholarship programme begins this September, and includes a course-fee waiver, and subsistence towards travel, printing, and IT requirements.

Ms Vuma, along with her three young children, fled Zimbabwe three years ago, where she had worked as a sales and marketing manager.

She described coming to Ireland and “hoping for a better future” but found herself locked “in limbo”, as she is not allowed to work under the rules. “The biggest effect is psychological, depression and mental health,” she explained.

“The amount of time spent in direct provision centres is ridiculous.

“It’s draining, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. I’d like to see it come to an end. It’s the same routine every day . . . you get up, have your breakfast, go to your room, wait for lunch, go back to your room, go to dinner, go back to your room.”

Break the boredom

To break the boredom she engages in voluntary work and returns to the centre after her children, aged 12, nine and seven, finish their school day. “They go to local schools and for them it’s a sanctuary and a haven away from the centre. At school they are just like everyone else; no one can pinpoint that they are from a direct provision centre living under these conditions.”

Ms Vuma said, because she is not allowed work, and given €19.10 per week by the State, her children are learning, “that being dependent [on the State] is a normal thing. I think this is one of the worst lessons you can ever teach your children.

“The scholarship is going to be a life-changer for me. It means I can finally pursue an area that I’m very passionate about. It will mean I am out of the centre and doing something that will enable me to contribute positively to society, as soon as I can get out of direct provision.”

Dr Mairead Moriarty, chair of the University of Limerick’s sanctuary steering committee, said the scholarship students would be studying a wide range of courses including business, arts humanities and social sciences, law and politics, peace and development studies, and engineering.

“They are from a range of countries, including Syria, Zimbabwe, Iran, Iraq, Libya. Most have been in direct provision for up to four years, and the majority have one from war-torn regions. They are forced migrants, rather than having come here by choice.”

Dublin City University also announced last year it was to offer Sanctuary Scholarships.