Only 61 members of the Travelling community have been enrolled in third level education since 2017, according to a report commissioned by the Department of Education. The number has increased from 41 in 2016.
In October 2019, The Traveller History and Culture in Education bill was passed in the Seanad and Education Minister, Joe McHugh TD, will present it to the Dáil in the coming weeks.
Tuam-native Martin ‘Beanz’ Warde, a graduate in sociology, political science and philosophy in NUIG, believes that the Government can do more to entice Travellers and members of other ethnic groups to progress in education.
“The Government can 100 per cent do more to encourage Travellers, people from other ethnic groups and people from working class backgrounds to stay in school,” Mr Warde said.
He travelled until the age of 10, and understands why education isn’t important in Traveller heritage.
“Education is secondary to survival.” he said, “but in reality it is a passport to academia.”
“I feel like I have the ability to contextualise myself and articulate my thoughts better due to completing my degree.”
Martin ‘Beanz’ Warde is also a comedian with a strong social media influence.
“I do feel that it is important to be able to demonstrate your intellect in a comedic sense, just so the fans know I’m joking,” he said.
Only 13 per cent of the Travelling community complete second level education compared to 92 per cent of the settled community, according to Pavee Point, a non-Government organisation that is committed to the attainment of human rights for Travellers.
Approximately 55 per cent of the children drop out of school before the age of 15, and only one per cent of Travellers go on to third-level education, which equates to approximately 300 people.
Jack, from Co Galway, left school at the age of 16 to work full-time.
“I decided to leave school when I was going into school and felt like the teachers didn’t care if I learned or not,” he said.
Jack is currently 17 years of age and works full-time in a local supermarket. He is the eldest child in his family and is a role model for his younger siblings.
“All of my brothers and sisters will finish school at least, maybe college.” Jack added.
Although Jack’s second level education ended prematurely, he said he has plans to complete his Leaving Certificate in the future.
“I never got the right chance to do the Leaving Cert and decided to work instead,” he said.
Martin ‘Beanz’ Warde would encourage young Travellers like Jack, to continue their education.
“Just stick it out until you’re finished, you’ll be 18 by then and you’ll understand the world a lot more. Education is key to having a better life,” added Mr Warde.
He also highlighted that there is a plethora of ways to get involved in education.
He completed his Leaving Certificate but wasn’t happy with the amount of points that he obtained.
Instead of giving up on his education he completed a one-year access course in NUIG, where he went on to study sociology, politics and philosophy.
“You can always do an access course in a university, which can help you earn a spot in one of the courses available. You can always go to college as a mature student too,” he said.
Many universities and colleges in Ireland have scholarships available solely for members of the Travelling community.
Trinity College Dublin implemented the Gisele Schmidt Scholars Fund for Travellers scholarship in 2007. The fund aims to “ease the financial burden of students from the Traveller community in order that they may avail of the full benefits of a third-level education”.