A young Leaving Cert student from Gort has this week pleaded for a chance to attend university, something she cannot currently do because of her precarious status as an undocumented resident.
Sara Morais (19 ) has lived in Co Galway with her family since 2006 and has attended both primary and secondary school here, but cannot apply for college because she is currently undocumented. The teen spoke this week to appeal to authorities to help with her legal status so she can go to college.
Ms Morais attends Gort Community School and is considered a promising student with a bright future. However last year she discovered she would not be eligible to attend university here due to her status.
“My family and I came to Ireland in 2006,” she told the RnaG morning programme Adhmhaidin this week. “My parents didn’t want to leave [Brazil], but they knew we could have a good life here. My parents have been working here and paying tax for 12 years, just like everyone else. They do everything right and legally, but we still have no legal status. I need answers. I want to know what we can do to change our situation.”
Ms Morais told the programme that her mother had recently been diagnosed with cancer, which is adding to the pressure she feels with regard to her education. “My mother is sick at the moment,” she said. “She had a big operation at the beginning of the school year, and we found out that she has cancer. Sometimes I have to miss school because I have to go to the doctor with her because she only has a little English. I have to be with her to translate, so I’m under pressure with everything this year.”
According to Olivia Fahy, who teaches Sara Irish at Gort Community School, and who was also interviewed on the programme on Tuesday morning, there are several pupils in a similar situation to Sara. “At the moment, there are eight pupils in this situation [undocumented] in Leaving Cert year, and after the Leaving Cert they won’t have a chance to go any further with their education and it’s a great pity,” Ms Fahy added. “As teachers here, we’re trying to highlight this problem. We want to find out what we can do for the pupils.”
Ms Fahy said that it was unclear what the problem was with obtaining legal status. Sara Morais’ family has made an application for residency, but it is still with their solicitor. “We’re not sure what the problem is, that’s why we’re here this morning,” she continued. “We want to find out what we can do. Sara attended primary and secondary school and now there’s a barrier in front of her. We don’t think it makes any sense that she can’t get a place on a [third level] course here, because without a doubt she’d be more valuable to the community with a qualification than without.
“Sara is a very diligent student and this isn’t her fault, and she’s appealing, if anybody can give her some answers, she would be very happy to listen to them and to follow their advice to help her case.”