Sunday, 20 August, 2017

I Finally Obtained my “Deferred Dream”

Posted on November 07, 2016 at 03:30 PM

BL5Q4197Una Buckley is an adult learner from Dublin and returned to education to complete what she calls her “deferred dream”. Una achieved a certificate through an outreach programme from Maynooth University and went on to finish a degree in All Hallows. She has become a strong advocate for adult learning; representing learners at national level and speaking at numerous adult education events and conferences including the 9th ICAE World Assembly in Montreal, Canada in June 2015.

Una shared her story at the first National Adult Learner Forum that took place in Dublin in February:

Becoming a teacher was a dream that stayed with me for many years

As a child when anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up my answer would always be a teacher. This is a dream that stayed with me for many years. Unfortunately, my parents separated when I was 16 and as the eldest I became the breadwinner for the family. I left school and held three jobs and this instilled in me a very strong work ethic. The years passed by and I met my husband, bought a little house and then a bigger one, had two fantastic children and through all this I continued to work full-time. I loved my job and teaching became a distant dream.

Not only did we learn, we had so much fun

Nine years ago, while reading a line in a book that asked: “What happened to your childhood dreams?” – My answer was, “nothing”. I had never taken any action to make my dreams come true. I felt I was now too old and that you had to be really brainy and intelligent to go to college or University. But the thought just wouldn’t go away, and as if by fate, I bought a local newspaper which had an ad for a QQI Level 6 Adult and Community Education outreach programme from Maynooth University, taking place in Tallaght. I applied for the course and during my interview I felt I had “blown” it so I gave them my “I had a dream” speech and I got a place on the course. I was extremely nervous and thought it would be like going back to school but I got such a shock when I went into the room. The teachers were sitting with the learners and I realised it wasn’t like school at all. I loved every minute of it. Not only did we learn, we had so much fun.

Your whole life experience is unique and has value

The main thing I learned from this course was that adults learn from one another. I never felt good enough because I left school at 16, however, now I know that it doesn’t matter when you left school or your background. You have so much more to offer; your whole life experience is unique and has value. The subject of adult education really interested me so I joined AONTAS as an individual member. With their help I have become an advocate for the wider benefits of adult learning. I have been involved in campaigns for the learner voice; funding for grants for part-time courses and recognition of prior learning. There has been huge advancements to learner voice initiatives and learner representation locally, nationally and internationally. I am currently the adult learner representative on the board of Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). This is the first time an adult learner representative has been appointed to a semi-state board and it has been a huge learning opportunity.

We took the long and winding road or “scenic route” back to education

For many adult learners, we did not have the chance to take the conventional route through education. We took the long and winding road or “scenic route” back to education. But I am proof that it can be done! I have now completed a degree in All Hallows and graduated last December. I proved you don’t need a super brain you just need the will and desire to do it. I finally obtained my “deferred dream”.

 If you have an inspiring learner story that you would like to share you can contact Karen Williams, Learner Supports Officer by email:, call 01 406 8220 or you can fill out our short learner story survey here:


Permanent link | Categories: Learner Story