Primary teaching students at private college must pay €650 for online Gaeltacht

Jamie Mc Carron 

Over 1,700 students at Hibernia College, a private college for training primary and post-primary teachers are being forced to pay €650 for an online Gaeltacht experience.

A total of 4 weeks of Gaeltacht placements were mandatory for all student teachers before Covid-19, usually costing €750 for food and accommodation.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 this placement is no longer possible for health reasons and has since been replaced with an online experience and reduced to €650, which is covered by the Gaeltacht Grant.

However students at private third level institution like Hibernia College cannot access this grant or any other state grants like SUSI, and will be forced to pay for a Gaeltacht placement that will take place in their own homes.

A petition has been set up by a Hibernia College student urging the government to allow private college students access to the Gaeltacht Grant and it has amassed over 7,250 signatures in two weeks.

The petition’s organiser, final year student Tracy Hayden, told The College View that the situation is a matter of equality.

“We think we deserve the Gaeltacht grant the same as every other teaching college in Ireland currently receives. We are all trainee teachers for the same state irregardless of what college we get our degree from,” said Hayden.

“We just wanted backing behind us and to show the government how many lives are affected by this expense,” she said.

950 students in their first year at Hibernia College are expected to pay up front for their online Gaeltacht experience scheduled to happen in April, and are yet to hear from the government about what will happen.

“We can’t thank people enough for signing and sharing the petition, however it’s made no impact which is quite disappointing. We’ve had zero contact from the government since,” Hayden said.

Another 800 final year students missed last summer’s Gaeltacht experience due to Covid-19 and are required to make up for the missing time in order to graduate. Instead of doing a total of four weeks of this placement, the time necessary has been reduced to three weeks, but might still cost up to €1,300.

In a letter sent to students on the February 17th Hibernia College’s founder and president, Dr Sean Rowland stated that he was unhappy with the current situation and was lobbying for the grant to be more available.

“We were acutely aware that this fee would cause huge stress and anxiety for many students and their families and we have consistently lobbied the Department of Education since last November asking for consideration for the grant for our students,” the statement read.

“We find it most unusual that the Department of Education and Comhchoiste Náisiúnta na gColáistí Samhraidh (CONCOS) agreed to an average price being set across the Gaeltacht providers, which is binding on our students.”

Jamie Mc Carron

Image Credit: Erin Stevenson O’Connor on Flickr