Maynooth University today confers 24 men and women from Traveller and Roma communities across Ireland as graduates of its Community Work in a Changing Ireland Level 7 Certificate programme. (Photos by Derek Speirs)

Speaking at the ceremony Anastasia Crickley from the Department of Applied Social Studies commented: “In a context where fewer than 13% of Travellers complete second level education, and only 1% or fewer go on to gain third level degrees, this is a significant achievement for the students involved.

“It is also a significant marker of Maynooth University’s continued commitment to access to education for Travellers, members of the Roma community and other marginalised groups.”

Graduate starts full-time degree course

Tracey Reilly left school early due to negative experiences at school.  Following time on a Community Employment Scheme in Pavee Point she applied for the NUI Community Work in a Changing Ireland Certificate Course.

Husband and wife teams Hughie and Ann Friel and Tracey and Patrick Reilly.

“I had learned a lot working in Pavee Point but this course really gave me a good grounding in the theory of Community Development.

“I think this will really help me in my work because you know the background to the work you’re doing.

“Doing this course also encouraged me to apply for a degree course in Maynooth and I was delighted to find out this week I’ve been accepted for the BA in Youth and Community Work and start in September.”

Breaking down barriers

One of this year’s graduates, Ann Friel, said: “Taking part in this programme was of huge benefit to
me, and I’m really proud to have achieved my certificate. I hope to use what I have learned
throughout this programme to be an advocate and leader in my community, and play my part in
breaking down the barriers between Travellers and the rest of Irish society.”

Bringing learning to the Roma Community

Tica Muntean moved to Ireland from Romania in 2000 with his wife and son. When they arrived,
Tica became involved with speaking up for his community. He is currently working with Pavee Point
and the Kildare Roma Interagency Group. Taking part in this course represented his first time in
accessing third level education.

Tica Muntean

“I think I learned a lot about working with the community on this course,” he said. “I worked in the
community before, but now I can bring back what I learned on this course. It was also good to meet
other community workers from around the country and to hear about their experiences.”

Innovative approach

Maynooth University President, Professor Philip Nolan congratulated the graduates and Pavee
Point for its continued determination in progressing Traveller and Roma rights and on its partnership
with Maynooth in this work. He also commended the ongoing commitment of the Department of
Applied Social Studies for its innovative approach to outreach, as well as the Access Office for its
continued capacity to ensure that its efforts focus on those most excluded.

“Acknowledgement of Traveller ethnicity has rightly created a new confidence and new targets to be
achieved. Travellers and Roma have a right to university education and the potential it can unlock,
and at Maynooth University we are committed and determined to play our part in making this the
norm. We look forward to further engagement with this community to achieve our shared
objectives,” said Professor Nolan.

Greater Access

Community Work in a Changing Ireland is one of a number of programmes developed by the
Maynooth University Department of Applied Social Studies to give marginalised communities
greater access to third level education.

These are offered on an outreach basis with the support and sponsorship of community-based
partner organisations, and cover topics such as community care, youth justice and management and
leadership. In this case, Maynooth University worked closely with Pavee Point Traveller and Roma
Centre to deliver the course.

Great sense of positivity – Minister

David Stanton, Minister for State at the Department of Justice and Equality, which also supported
the programme, commented: “This graduation event in Maynooth University is an immensely proud
moment for the twenty-four students as they receive their Certificates in Community Work.
“I feel a great sense of positivity for the Traveller and Roma communities in Ireland today, when I
see these terrific representatives who have clearly demonstrated the high level of commitment
required to graduate.”

Course Content

The graduates, all of whom are mature students, each completed a minimum of 100 hours of study
to achieve their certificates. The course included modules on community work, youth justice,
equality, human rights and management and organisation, and was designed to prepare the
students as leaders and advocates for their communities.

A key goal for the programme is to empower graduates to act as mediators between their
communities and the wider Irish society, allowing for greater communication and understanding of
each other’s issues and needs.

The 24 graduates now hold a Level 7 Special Purpose Award, which will enhance their work and
contributions to their communities, and can act as an access route to further studies and degree
courses.

Some of the graduates with lecturers and University President Professor Philip Nolan.