WEST Cork TD Holly Cairns, the Social Democrats’ spokesperson for Further and Higher Education, is calling for greater supports for Cork students who are encountering difficulties with online learning.
This year’s college experience is like no other and is proving to be a very uncertain and trying time for many students, she said. ‘With practically all teaching and learning moving online, students and colleges are encountering fresh issues that need to be resolved. To ensure that all students can participate in third level education this year, they need access to appropriate IT equipment.’
Deputy Cairns said the government’s laptop scheme was a positive initiative but needs to be extended to facilitate all students who cannot afford one.
‘The demand for this particular support exceeds supply, with thousands of families on PUP or wage subsidies and students not able to get part-time jobs to fund their education.’ She added that poor and non-existent broadband in many parts of West Cork remains a problem for students. ‘A number of weeks ago, I suggested that the Minister provide funding to develop rural hubs and provide students with grants to access existing ones, such as the Ludgate in Skibbereen, which offers student rates. The Minister promised to discuss this with me but the meeting has yet to materialise.;
Deputy Cairns also pointed out that major issues exist around student accommodation as people are looking for refunds or new terms as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.
‘There is a lack of specific legislation to protect student renters which results in some landlords taking advantage of the situation. The Union of Students in Ireland and individual college unions have been calling for additional protections to prevent these issues from arising. The Minister for Housing has committed to helping but it is crucial that he moves on this without further delay.’