Fifty hours does not sound like a long time, but then, all things are relative. Two whole days in a leisure park will always feel much shorter than the same amount of time in a maths class. Our fifty hours, of course, was in the latter, and all of us wished dearly to have been in the former. It is no secret right now that Ireland is suffering from record levels of unemployment, and the young people in particular are feeling the pinch. As it currently stands people under the age of twenty-five have been limited to a maximum dole payment of €100 per week, and this – in a city like Dublin – is simply not enough to make ends meet.

Fortunately there are a number of ways around this, and one of them is education. In all honesty, the jury is out with regards to the motives and intentions of the government in making education available to the young unemployed. Whilst young unemployed people are registered in a government approved education scheme they can be conveniently removed from the live register, and many of the young folk in the courses will openly admit that the only reason they have signed up is so that they can avail of the education supplement that has been made available to them. In many cases they have no choice in the matter. They need the money. Sadly this means that many of them have no real desire to engage with the education process, and some will become disruptive. We can’t blame them.

It was a friend who was employed by one community development programme who gave them my number as they were looking for a maths tutor. Now that I have returned to the university myself I could do with the extra money and leapt at the offer. Over the course of fifty hours it would be my job to prepare these youngsters for a maths exam that would entitle them to a qualification, and, at times like this, qualifications are useful. Yes, there were a few in the class who did not want to engage, and a few who, at the start, made it their business to disrupt. I would like to think that as our relationship developed most of them were won round. With all of this going on there were a couple who were there because they wanted to be there.

Together we finished the course and today they all sat down to take the exam. These too are all relative. Some of the students found the questions a real challenge, but I was delighted to see that even those who had earlier been menaces gave it their best shot. As I watched them scribble in silence and punch numbers into their calculators I couldn’t help but feel a little proud of them. Our time together is all over now, but in the time that we were working together we did become something of a team. My only hope is that their results – no matter what they are – will help them get out of the mess the economy has helped land them in. I really wished them all the best.

Jason Michael
Blog Author

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