English language schools are seeking support for the sector from the Government so they can plan a strategy to recover from the shutdown.

They say there is no timeframe in the Covid-19 road map for when they can reopen.

The Donegal English Language School in Bundoran has had 850 cancellations from its overseas students this season.

It usually accommodates 1,000 students annually from around 23 different countries.

It said 70% of the school's revenue is usually generated between March and September, but this year those months coincide with the shutdown and travel restrictions.

The school would normally start its marketing plan in September after its busiest period, but with no guidelines on when they can reopen, it says it cannot plan its recovery strategy.

Gina Witherow, Director of DELS, said she has come forward to represent the sector as it was time for some direction or grant support from the Government.

She said English language schools contribute €880m to the national economy.

In Bundoran alone, she said, many businesses rely on students from her school to generate a large portion of their annual income.

"Our business last year contributed €1m to the local economy," said Ms Witherow.

"That's through the 40 host families we work with, the 41 staff that we employed, and the local businesses that we work with.

"For example, the local riding school, we contribute 60% of their overall turnover. So the knock-on effect of us being closed is not just about us, but it's about the wider community." 

DELS has been operating in Bundoran for just over 30 years.

Ms Witherow said they could be there for another 30 years, but they need support to ensure that their industry is safeguarded.

In terms of who she believes can help the sector, Ms Witherow said it comes under the remit of many different people.

"I think Joe McHugh, the Minister for Education, the Minister for Tourism, Fáilte Ireland and ISME, because you know we fall under small to medium enterprises. So there are so many people and so many layers," she said.

While no new students have arrived to the school since March, there are still 30 long-term students living in and around Bundoran.

Only six of these are in receipt of the Covid-19 payment. Others have visas that allow them to work but they have no prospect of finding a job in the current crisis.

For Amanda Rodrigues dos Santos from Brazil, the situation is putting her under extreme financial pressure.

She had hoped to work so she could pay to re-enrol with the school and do some travelling. But now she's living off the €3,000 that she had to provide to secure her Irish visa.

"It wasn't the money I was expecting to waste, you know, but we have to do it," said Ms Rodigues dos Santos. 

"It's been hard to adjust for me, but also for other students that have invested all their money that they have in life to be here to learn English for a better future. Because in Brazil English is really important.

"And now we have online classes, our school's can be really supportive about it, but we know that it isn't the same you know. So I'm speaking not just for me, but for all of the students that invest everything in that and now they're wasting all their money that they have."

Another student, Claudia Torrez Molina, said she is in a fortunate position that her parents can support her.

They own a bicycle shop in Bolivia, so while public transport is not running, they have been selling a lot of bikes.

She only arrived in Bundoran in February, and although it is her second visit to Ireland, she had hoped to experience a lot more while living here.

"I put all my goals, and dreams on standby because the Covid-19 came. So, I am just to be patient to wait for what happens in the future," she said.

A recent economic analysis by the three Regional Assemblies of Ireland found Bundoran was likely to be the town most exposed to significant economic disruption caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.

John O'Connell, Director of the Insititute of Study Abroad, said all the businesses in Bundoran are interconnected.

He said that with everything cancelled and no international visitors coming to the town, they need some kind of pathway forward from the Government.

"It's a much longer picture we have to look at right into 2021," said Mr O'Connell.

"So, you know, we'd be concerned that those supports (Covid-19 payments) would disappear or, you know, taper out in the short term, and you don't know what's going to happen.

"Something you'd certainly ask the Government and the Department of Finance and so on is to examine that particular predicament, as to how these types of businesses can be supported."