Limerick charity helps disadvantaged children engage in education

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Engage in Education Director John Roche

WHEN it comes to higher eduction, opportunities are far from equal. That’s why Limerick charity Engage in Education is trying to level the playing field for 350 students from disadvantaged areas. 

Project Director John Roche said that many of the children who are straining to get educational qualifications come from backgrounds where education is either not a priority or not a possibility.

“There are kids who get support and attention if they get in trouble or there are red flags about their school attendance but the kid who is just getting on with it and trying hard in class gets no help.

“That’s where Engage in Education comes in,” he explains.

Engage offers financial and other vital supports for children interested in getting an education. And it gets them young, starting with ten-year-olds in primary school and carrying on until the students they help graduate form third level.

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“They don’t have to be geniuses. There are lots of children in school who would do very well at third level if they got the supports they need to get there and stay there. We need the students to be willing to do the work – attend the grinds, attend classes and take advantage of what we can offer. What we’re trying to do is level the playing field, ” says John.

The charity goes into schools in disadvantaged areas of Limerick to talk to youngsters about the achievability of going to college.

“Living in these areas they might never have met someone who has gone to college, and they don’t know the first thing about it. In places where going on in education is the norm, people talk about SUSI grants and course choices. For these kids, that’s a foreign language.

“We go into schools and talk about what their ideal job might be when they grow up and then talk about how they can achieve that. And we bring students from their area who have gone on, to talk to them about how it can be done and get them involved with peer groups of other local kids who have the same plans for going to third level. We normalise gong to third level.”

Engage also provides supports such as giving youngsters technology on loan, paying for grinds in recognised centres to help them maximise their Leaving Cert points, and supporting them on their educational journey with regular check-ins and help with dealing with requirements and other issues around life at third level.

There are six such projects in the country. The other five are in Dublin, but John says none operate the way the Limerick initiative does, providing support all the way through from primary school.

Since the foundation of the charity in 1991, it has supported hundreds of students who might otherwise never have managed to get a degree.

While their core funding comes from the Department of Further and Higher Education, Engage in Education is dependent also on other sponsors.

“We welcome corporate support especially. The students are their future employees and future contributing members of society,” said John.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the criteria for application or in supporting the charity’s work should log on to their website, http://engage-edu.ie