I would ask our third-level institutions to spare a thought for the predicament of a Dublin youth just turned 19. This helpless teenager is nearly 22 weeks on his back - six weeks in the national spinal ward in the Mater Hospital and currently 16 weeks in the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghaire.
This young man is currently quadriplegic. His beautiful young life changed on Saturday, March 27 - the day Ireland won the Triple Crown - while playing a friendly schools match - fifth years versus sixth years. His neck was broken during this game.
After 13 years of formal schooling, this unfortunate youngster had only 10 weeks left to complete the secondary cycle. He was to sit his oral French exam three days after his accident.
The colleges want a Leaving Cert from him before they’ll allow him attempt any third-level course. Alternatively, the NUI institutions may require him to sit the pre-university course. It is important to note that the latter is usually attended by mature students who may be several years out of school.
This seems grossly unfair.
The third-level institutions in this country do not seem to be able to accommodate this student in their October admissions policy even though his mental functions are perfect.
The victim of a tragic accident which leaves him physically powerless, he now seems to be victimised even further due to the fact that third-level institutions have no formal facilities to evaluate his progress.
In the midst of the euphoria which comes in the aftermath of the Leaving Cert results, has this victim of a sports accident now to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune?
With no Leaving Cert in his hand and after attending school all his young life, will any third-level college or university offer him a CAO place in October? His friends will be on their way to further education while he, literally, will lie on his back. This is marginalisation and discrimination at its worst.
The Minister for Education and Science, Noel Dempsey, while reading the second stage of the Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill in the Oireachtas (October 23, 2003) quoted what John F Kennedy said over 40 years ago: “Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.”
Fine words indeed... but can anyone do anything positive? Lip service is no help to this young man - he needs hope and support from our educational establishments. After all, to educate means to ‘lead out’.
17 Asgard Park