Thursday, 11 March 2021
Young People and Access to Further and Higher Education: Motion [Private Members]
I thank People Before Profit for tabling this motion. The debate is a timely and interesting one that we should have. Ar an chéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil do na daoine a bhíonn ag obair i SUSI. They do a very hard and dedicated job and they are very helpful. SUSI has settled down now from when it started. There is significant discrimination against rural people. While Covid was a calamity, it should have given us the opportunity to catch the third-level education sector by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shake because there is a lot of dead wood and inequalities. Change is badly needed.
I could mention a university for the south east, which is badly needed. Clonmel is affected by the move of Limerick Institute of Technology, LIT, from its current site at the bypass to the old Kickham Barracks, which is a wonderful site. While there are great plans for it, we need that move to be supported.
I spoke to my daughter, who is in University of Limerick, UL, before coming into the Chamber. She said college is like having a website provided. There could have been much more in terms of learning online. It is not fair. More should be done for students. We are now a year into the pandemic and we should be able to adapt and have more functions on campus. For sixth year students going into first year, the world is their oyster. They had a tough year in sixth year, when the leaving certificate had to be changed utterly. All campuses need to do more to allow young people to express themselves, be able to learn more and fulfil themselves in spite of Covid. This is an opportunity to do things differently.
While online learning should have been a wonderful experience, it has not been. People are going on to websites to work. Much more needs to be done by management and those responsible in third level institutions to be more interactive and to physically engage with students as much as possible. They should be allowed on campus and not stuck in their rooms on computers all day. It is the same as giving them a website.