THE CHILD and Family Agency Tusla was condemned for failing to secure a school place for a child in Limerick, who was without any form of education for months, documents received by the Limerick Leader show.
E-mail correspondence, received from Limerick City and County Council through a Freedom of Information request, shows that the child was “without a school place or any formal tuition” after missing enrolment in September 2016.
The child, who is a Syrian refugee, received three letters of refusal from local schools.
The child is one of 72 Syrian refugees to come to Limerick as part of the resettlement programme, which has been extended to March 2018.
According to a monthly programme meeting in September, the reason for the refusals was “that the schools are full”.
Raising concerns with the Department of Justice on October 18, a community development officer, speaking on behalf of the child, said that the Education Welfare Board had “not been effective in securing a [school] place”.
The EWB is operated by Tusla, which is one of 12 organisations involved in the inter-agency resettlement programme. The officer asked the Department of Justice if it could “assist in acquiring a school place” for the child, after exploring alternative options.
In the e-mail, the officer detailed previous correspondence with Tusla’s educational welfare officers in relation to the issue.
On August 31 — days before the school term started — the officer raised concerns with the EWB about the child’s school applications. The EWB officer said that one application was sent back “as it was incomplete”. It is understood that the address was omitted.
A programme official said at the September meeting that appeals against the school refusals had been submitted.
On September 12, the development officer was instructed by the EWB that the child would “need to have letters of refusals from the school before we can access any educational options” for the refugee. The official then suggested if it was “possible for [the youth] to attend the adult classes in the interim”.
The unnamed officer said to the Department of Justice: “I have explored a series of alternative options without any support from the EWB. I have received three letters of refusal and I am now looking to quickly getting home tuition in place (by EWB) whilst continuing to pursue schools locally for places. I feel it is incredibly important that [the youth] be given a normal and fair chance at life here.”
Limerick City and County Council chairs the Syrian refugee resettlement programme in Limerick. The Limerick Leader contacted the council twice in relation to the school placement issue, on February 28 and on March 20. Tusla, via the council, did not respond to these two queries at the time of going to print.
Each refugee living in Limerick as part of the Syrian resettlement programme is entitled to equal access to mainstream services, including education, under the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention.
At a meeting at Merchant’s Quay on January 10, Tusla said that there was a difficulty identifying school places for families in a particular area. The Tusla representative said that “there is a new school being built in Mungret and the age profile of these children fit this school”.