Education for Everyone
The right to education is an essential part of personal freedom and a socially just order.
Our change work in this arena began in the 1980s when times were hard in Ireland. Inner city communities were characterised by an architecture of greyness that was a monument to absolute poverty. Housing estates on the outskirts of Dublin and other major cities were ghettos designed to remove unwanted sights from the struggling middle-classes. Only the priviledged clases had places in third-level colleges and ‘second-chance’ education was almost non-existent. There were few women in public life, child-care was only for the wealthy. Rural poverty was extensive though hidden. The churches were full with only a trickle on the way out.
In 1986 our response to these social inequalities took the form of inviting a small group of women from Tallaght up to our home, The Shanty, located in Brittas, Co. Dublin. Together we planned an educational project for those in Tallaght who wanted ‘second-chance’ education, and ran the project from our home for the first 13 years. In 1999, with private monies and a major grant from the Irish Government, we moved the project into An Cosán — a purpose-built community education and enterprise centre in the heart of Tallaght West. Under the leadership of a CEO and management team, in the last decade the organisation has offered courses to 6,000 participants, 1500 young children, and has created over 100 sustainable jobs.