NCBI Gerard Byrne Bursary Award Recipient 2020
Donegal student, Megan Callaghan is in her second year at St. Angela’s College, studying Home Economics and Gaeilge Teacher Education. Her grá for Gaeilge was obvious throughout all of secondary school but living with a visual impairment meant that learning was always a challenge, often not being able to see her classroom board. But this didn’t stop her from pursuing a teaching career, something she feels privileged to do, educating and inspiring future generations. It was when she began her College journey that Megan learned about the Gerard Byrne Bursary Award, an award offered by the National Council for the Blind Ireland to only a few students each year who went through school with a visual impairment and who have overcome significant challenges.
Megan explains ‘I first heard about the bursary when the Disability and Learning Support Officer, Ms Vivienne Ryan, sent me the details and encouraged me to apply’. As part of the application, Megan also submitted a 1,500-word essay outlining the challenges she encountered as well as her career aspirations. Successful candidates at this stage were then invited to interview by a panel from the NCBI. ‘This was my first ever interview and I was nervous but a week later I got the news that I was to receive the award - I burst into tears as I had never won a thing in my life, never mind something I got because of my poor sight. It felt as if everything had come full circle and all those challenging times throughout secondary school got me to this point. Mar a deireann an seanfhocal: ‘An áit a mbíonn an dólás bíonn an sólás ina aice’ agus nuair a fuair mé an glaoch gutháin sin, thuig mé brí an tseanfhocail áirithe sin láithreach’.
Dr. Mairéad Conneely, one of Megan’s Gaeilge lecturers, is delighted and proud of Megan’s achievement and award. ‘Is duine díograiseach, tuisceanach agus paiseanta í Megan, agus tá mé cinnte go mbeidh sí ina heiseamláir iontach amuigh sna seomraí ranga agus sna seomraí foirne chomh maith’.
As a future teacher, Megan will continue to advocate for students living with visual impairments within the Irish education system and has already formulated her strategies to achieve equality for all learners. The awards were streamed live on 3rd December 2020 and speaking at the event, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Mr Simon Harris mentioned ‘ensuring equity of access to education is a priority for the Department, and the Gerard Byrne Bursary is especially critical given the low numbers of students with visual impairment and blindness studying in higher education’. The award consists of two annual grants to the value of €1,500 per year and continues for the duration of the undergraduate programme.