Date Published: 01-Jun-2011
You wouldn’t need Jean Byrne in her latest shiny dress to predict that the weather was always going to take a sudden turn for the better this week – after all you only have to hint at the start of the Leaving Cert for the sun to suddenly shine.
And even now – 30 years to the week after I entered the gymnasium in St Mary’s College with my sweaty pen and my unsure future in my hands – the mere thought of the Leaving can still bring me out in a cold sweat.
There are so many people who say their recurring nightmare is to suddenly find themselves sitting at their exam desk with a Maths paper and as many foolscap folders as you could ever need – only to realise that they haven’t studied a single thing for the most important three hours of their life.
That’s the impact the Leaving has and it’s an imprint that never leaves. Time may heal other wounds, but the Leaving Cert is a sore that is opened in perpetuity during the first week of June for the rest of your natural life.
I can’t remember a single thing that came up in a single exam but I can still see myself sitting at the flimsiest of folding desk – with enough room for the exam paper, some writing paper, a pen and, at a push, one elbow – with enough butterflies to qualify for an environmental grant.
And in complete contrast, at no stage in my life since have I experienced the level of euphoria that I felt as I walked out of my final exam more than two weeks later – Home Economics; Social and Scientific as it was, a subject I’d never had a class in or opened a book for and which still earned me a pass in an honours paper.
It must have been how Nelson Mandela felt as he walked from Robben Island – free at last, although there were no cameras to greet us as we exited the giant gates. But against that we didn’t have Winnie hanging onto us for the next few years either.
And now that we were all grown up, we celebrated like we’d won the World Cup, ending up on the floor of some flat off Dominick Street unable to remember your name but still able to remember your Leaving Cert exam number. That was the indelible mark it left on your brain.
It goes without saying that the Leaving Cert is unbelievably cruel and hugely unfair, but you have to have some common test and they still haven’t designed a better one.
Thankfully there’s more emphasis these days on the oral aspect of languages because back then you could get an honour in French or Spanish and not be able to ask for a beer in either country.
But the notion of your future being determined by three hours in an exam hall is ludicrous; for a start, some people perform better than others under that kind of pressure and coolness under fire isn’t an exam subject at all.
Equally – as the cram colleges have proved by taking it to a fine art – there are ways of learning off chunks of your syllabus by rote to the point where it should be called regurgitation as opposed to revision.
The fact that you retain so little of what you learn over the first 18 years of your life for use in any aspect of your life from then on, tells its own story.
It remains one of life’s great mysteries as to how you can spend so long learning something off by heart and then within a matter of minutes it is erased from your memory as though you’d experienced the very early onset of dementia.
Patronising pundits always try to hold up a handful of people who failed their Leaving but still did well in life, as proof that the world doesn’t end with a bad result.
Everyone knows it doesn’t – but a poor result sure stacks up the odds against you.
The pressure that will be placed on 60,000 Leaving Certs next week – and in a relative way on their Junior Cert counterparts – is way too much, but it won’t be changing any time soon.
The only consolation, as they sit there in the shadow of the sunshine, is that life will never ever throw up three weeks as stressful again.
And presuming that all goes reasonably well between now and June 24 at the latest, you can at least look forward to that sense of relief and euphoria that – like the exam itself – you will never experience again.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Appeal for information following Portumna crash
Date Published: 08-May-2013
Gardai are appealing for witnesses following a single vehicle crash at the Portumna bridge this morning.
The road from Nenagh to Loughrea reopened shortly after 11 this morning following the completion of a technical exam.
Four men were travelling in a van when they hit the Portumna bridge around 6:30 this morning.
Gardaí, ambulance and two units of Portumna fire services rushed to the scene, and one of the men was taken to Portiuncula hospital in Ballinasloe.
He is being treated for head injuries, which have been described by Gardaí as serious.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Portumna Garda station on 09-097-42060
President Higgins among GMIT’s first ever honorary fellowships
Date Published: 10-May-2013
GMIT is to honour seven outstanding individuals including President Michael D Higgins with Honorary Fellowships at a special ceremony later this month.
It’s the first time in the 40 year history of the Institute the Governing Body of GMIT has decided to award honorary fellowships.
The GMIT Honorary Fellowships will be conferred at the g Hotel in the city this day two weeks Friday 24 May at 2.30pm in front of 200 invited guests.
Galway commuters hold their breath as LRC intervenes in bus strike
Date Published: 13-May-2013
Galway commuters are holding their breath as there has been a potential breakthrough in the Bus Eireann dispute, as both sides have agreed to talks at the Labour Relations Commission.
The LRC intervened this afternoon, on day two of strike action that has seen 95 per cent of bus services disrupted across the country.
The LRC’s Director of Conciliation Services, Kevin Foley, says the National Bus and Rail Union and the company have agreed to meet for mediated talks at 8 this evening.