A GENEROUS anonymous donation has allowed a resident of the Drishane Castle direct provision centre to start third level education.
18-year-old Grace Tambwe was facing bills of almost €4,000 to continue her education having completed her leaving cert in Millstreet.
Grace has been in Ireland for two years having fled a savage civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She has not been here long enough to qualify for educational assistance at third level, leaving her with nowhere to turn.
Upon hearing of her plight, Síle Ní Dhubhgaill, a choir teacher at the direct provision centre and local representative for the Social Democrats, reached out in the hopes of securing some support.
"There are numerous cases where students are offered places on their CAO but have to turn them down because they face international student fee rates," Síle said.
"For Grace, she was offered a place at WIT, which she couldn't take. She then got a place on an entry-level nursing PLC course in Macroom.
"If she gets distinctions in this course, there is a chance of a scholarship to UCC next year."
Grace had already done her orientation and started classes when she was told that under a new directive, international fees would apply to the course.
"This was never previously the case," Síle said.
"There have been quite a few students pass through the direct provision centre to the College of Further Education in Macroom for PLC courses."
Having passed the issue up the line to party colleague Roisin Shorthall TD to no avail, Síle was becoming desperate.
"In a fit of panic and anger, I rang Liveline. The deadline for the course was the Sunday, we went on the radio on the Friday," she added.
Grace spoke at length on the radio about her plight, including her traumatic solo journey to Ireland at just 16 years old.
"There was a huge response," Síle said.
"A donor offered to pay her fees and we managed to get the college to hold her place. A second person got in touch looking to pay the fees and then offered to buy a laptop to help out Grace's studies when they heard it was sorted.
"It is amazing. Honestly, it is the kind of thing that would restore your faith in humanity. Grace told me that her mother was in tears with happiness when they heard.
"I think people are finally starting to understand the realities of direct provision.
"We are hearing stories now and realising just what a broken system it is."