The challenges facing young people in Direct Provision accessing 3rd level education

Christine O'Mahony

Starting 3rd level education is challenging enough for the average student. Sorting out accommodation, transport, tuition fees, books and clothes is not so easy, especially in Ireland where tuition fees are the 2nd highest in Europe

Rent is expensive due to landlords who are known to exploit students, particularly in the Dublin area.

However, for students and their parents living in the direct provision system, everyday is testing with little access to resources and supports.

The College View spoke to Reuben Hambakachere, the Integration Project Officer of Cultúr Migrants Centre, located in Navan, Co Meath, who covered the challenges faced by students in direct provision, especially in Mosney, known as the biggest direct provision centre in Ireland.

Hambakachere told The College View, that the biggest challenge students face is the high fees, “they simply cannot afford it”, students in direct provision must pay international fees, which can range between €7,000 to €30,000.

Hambakachere also revealed that students have no access to resources and that the SUSI grant, which would help students with the cost of their tuition fees, is not available to everyone, “you need at least three years in the Irish Education System, not many students living in direct provision have been here that long”.

The Irish Times recently published an article about a Maynooth University student living in direct provision, who is being made to pay international fees. Helena Cala dreams to be a lab technician, but her parents do not have the right to work.

She revealed that she is very stressed and has resorted to setting up a Go Fund Me, in the hopes that others will help her pay for her 1st year tuition fees. Link:

Another challenge Hambakachere touched on was the language barriers, not only for students, but for parents who would like to assist their children through the CAO process or to help them with their assignments and paperwork.

Most direct provision centres are located in remote areas, which is a challenge in itself. In Mosney, in particular, there is no bus from the centre to Dublin. This leaves students with no other option but to walk to the nearest bus stop or to spend money on a taxi.

Hambakachere said a big challenge is when families are dispersed or sent to another direct provision centre. If a student is studying in DCU, but their family is sent to a direct provision centre in Galway, students are left with no choice but to give up their education as they simply cannot afford alternative accommodation.

“They get €38.80 a week, trying to afford rent elsewhere is out of the question,” Hambakachere concluded.

At Monday’s Meath County Council meeting, Cllr Ronan Moore (Social Democrats) and Cllr Mike Bray (Fianna Fáil) brought forward a joint motion on direct provision. Moore and Bray revealed that they both sit on the Comhairle na nÓg (Councils for the youth) stirring committee and listened to the problems faced by residents in the Mosney direct provision centre.

Many residents, especially those who are students, found it difficult to access anything via the internet, due to the problems with the WIFI. With semester one underway and assignments piling up, this is a huge challenge for students in direct provision.

Moore said that “residents cannot afford to pay for the internet, IPAS should fund free WIFI in the village, the same way that other villages have free WIFI zones”.

The motion received unanimous support, with many councillors in disbelief that WIFI access is limited, especially from an “educational perspective”, as Cllr Nick Killian (Ind) put it.

Cllr Aisling O’Neill (Sinn Féin) brought up an important point, that WIFI is important for “adults in order to take part in online courses, especially language courses”.

A further challenge is the right to work. Many Irish students can balance study and work, to earn more money so they can afford rent, food, clothes and fund their social life. Unfortunately, for many in direct provision, this is not an option.

Many in direct provision feel isolated, this worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Network for Migration Matters wrote in their report that “most students love campus life and have spent every free minute on campus”.

The refugee identity which is one of exclusion and uncertainty has been replaced or at least complemented by a student identity which is positive and restores self-esteem.

If anything, colleges provide students in direct provision with a social life, one that they may lack in their centre.

However, living so long in isolation, may make it difficult for an individual to approach people and make new friends.

The College View spoke with a student in direct provision who is studying science at IT Sligo. They asked The College View to remain anonymous.

Student X said “the main difficulty is the fees, I have to pay €9000, while ordinary students only have to pay €3000”.

“Luckily, I now have the right to work, I got my papers two months ago… making friends and integrating into the college was easy enough,” they said.

Student X revealed that they do not live close to the college and have to rely on public transport. They disclosed that they had to move to another direct provision centre and is now sharing a room with two other people.

We asked Student X if the college provided any supports for them as a student in direct provision, “no, I am treated like every other student,” Student X replied.

Student X also made it known that they have suffered through some financial difficulties trying to pay for their food, drinks, books, public transport and social life, after they paid for their tuition fees.

Christine O’Mahony 

Image Credit: Wikipedia