The Community Education Support Programme within our Further Education and Training (FET) Service supports thousands of students around the county and its islands each year but what exactly does it support? In this blog our Community Education Facilitators Catherine Friel and Orla Winters tell us more about the Programme.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela
The life-line that is Community Education is well and truly alive and kicking in Co. Donegal. For many, it is the first step into the world of adult and further education. Through its Community Education Support Programme, Donegal ETB supports a wide range of over 400 courses for adults throughout the county annually. Adults from Pettigo in the south, to Malin in the north and all through the Gaeltacht and the islands can avail of short-term, mostly non-accredited classes in their local area.
Family Resource Centres, Men’s Sheds and Women’s groups, Community hubs, and voluntary and charitable groups, are among those organisations working tirelessly to provide interesting and popular courses throughout the year. They offer educational and upskilling opportunities to adults in a friendly informal setting. Participants can enjoy honing and learning new skills, build their confidence and increase their social interactions. Community Education can also promote positive mental health and wellbeing and help to promote greater community spirit.
Course options are wide and diverse and include the perennial favourites of painting, crafts such as knitting and crochet, horticulture and photography. Sustainability has emerged in recent years as a popular theme amongst local communities and the evolution of Community Education courses reflect this. Upcycling and upholstery are popular throughout the county. Seaweed foraging and marine conservation tend to dominate along the coast and conversational Irish is ever present amongst our Gaeltacht partners, as well as in places like Letterkenny, which is striving to become a Gaeltacht services town. Each year brings new trends and ideas and 2022 was no different. DIY, domestic plumbing for women, bee-keeping, coastal conservation, sign language and herbalism are just some examples of courses offered in various locations throughout Donegal.
During and following on from the COVID-19 pandemic, a new wave of self-care and mindfulness classes became popular, both on site and online. Many community centres are now regularly offering meditation, yoga, pilates and personal development.
“Anyone who keeps learning stays young” – Henry Ford
The Community Education Support Programme provides funding towards tuition, venue and refreshments costs for classes of anywhere from two to ten week blocks and also for shorter workshops. Each application is considered and assessed on its own merits to ensure it meets the criteria and ethos of the Programme in promoting inclusive, locally based educational opportunities. There are also options available to run accredited courses and full support to fulfil QQI quality standards is provided. Recent accredited courses supported under the Community Education programme included single subject modules in QQI Level 5 ‘Payroll – Manual and Computerised, QQI level 5 ‘Local History’ and QQI Level 5 ‘Intercultural Studies’.
Currently, the Programme is working with over 165 locally based centres and groups throughout the county. We are always striving to increase that number and extend our reach even further. If you are interested in facilitating a community education class in your local area or you are already a participant in a community group interested in running a course in your local area, feel free to contact one of Donegal ETB’s two dedicated Community Education Facilitators to schedule a meeting and arrange to join our extensive network of community providers. Enquiries from South, West and the Gaeltacht areas of the county should be directed to Orla Winters (087 3573954) and in the North, East and Inishowen areas to Catherine Friel (087 1853050).