A LIMERICK asylum seeker who achieved 575 points in her Leaving Certificate has been offered a free college place in Dublin, as well as accommodation and living expenses, amounting to well over €100,000 for the duration of her course.
Anna Kern, 19, came to Ireland from Ukraine two years ago and lives in direct provision accommodation in Knockalisheen, on the outskirts of Limerick, with her mother and siblings in a single room.
Neither Anna nor her mother are permitted to work, and therefore unable to save to help fund her dream to study physiotherapy in the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin.
Marion Cummins, the principal of Coláiste Nano Nagle in Sexton Street, which Anna attended, today confirmed the good news which she never thought would be possible.
“It’s just incredible. I am absolutely delighted with the outcome. I never thought for a minute it would have such a happy ending,” she said.
“When I saw her results that morning, I called the media and it just took off. The Royal College of Surgeons has now waived her fees, which are in excess of €20,000 a year, and will also help her financially with her accommodation and living expenses.
“Anna got the letter today and is over the moon. She is a quiet, unassuming girl and everyone at the school is thrilled to bits for her. It will be a life-changer for her and her family,” she told the Limerick Leader.
Ms Cummins described Anna as an “exceptional” student, and said to achieve 575 points in her Leaving Certificate after just two years in the country is “phenomenal”.
“It is the icing on the cake as a principal to see this happen because you want to best for your students. Hopefully this will set a precedent (for other students in direct provision). It has highlighted the problem. It’s about time the Government looked at the whole issue of direct provision because it is clearly unjust,” she said.
Asylum-seeking students are currently treated as international students, meaning they face annual fees of between €10,000 to €50,000 for undergraduate courses, which for many is not feasible.
Anna achieved three As in her final school exams - in Russian, German and Mathematics.
Minister for Education & Skills and Limerick deputy Jan O’Sullivan met with Anna last week and spoke to the college on her behalf. The college said it has decided to make Ms Kern an offer outside of the CAO system so as not to impact on any CAO candidates.
For the last two years Anna has lived with her mother, Lyudmyla, brother Andriy (13) and sister Olga (10) in a one-roomed home at Knockalisheen, where there have been repeated protests by residents over the years.
Every evening she studied at a table in the corner for up to five hours.
“We are all in the one room, someone is watching TV, somebody is reading a book and I would be studying. My family helped a lot because they tried to stay quiet,” she said.
“The situation was very hard but if you want to do something with your life you have to educate yourself like everyone else - I just want to be able to pay for myself in the future,” she said.