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From The Socialist newspaper, 14 October 2020

"It's not fair" - lockdown students demand free education

Protesting in Cardiff, photo Cardiff Socialist Students

Protesting in Cardiff, photo Cardiff Socialist Students   (Click to enlarge)

Below are edited extracts from a letter which Peggy Owens of Cardiff Socialist Students has sent to Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford.

Students have been unfairly blamed for the recent surge in cases, and urged to go back to university - moving away from home - only to find themselves in an isolated and dangerous position. With rising debts and insecure housing, they are also left vulnerable to the financial consequences of the pandemic.

With multiple U-turns from the government, it is no surprise that people are now confused about what they can and cannot do. However, the singling out of students feels particularly cruel, and frankly discriminatory. Government rhetoric has unfairly blamed students for the recent surge in cases, when in fact it is government mismanagement which has led to one of the worst death tolls in the world.

Students have been coaxed into moving into halls or student accommodation with the lure of 'in-person seminars and lectures', only to find all of their education will be delivered online. They could have stayed at home and stayed safe, but instead they are forced into a busy student environment where viruses spread like wildfire.

Not only this, but they are now being threatened with a Christmas away from their families - quarantined in halls of residence. It's not fair.

For some, higher education is now similar to being in prison. Locked in halls in Manchester and Swansea, students are having to spend their first weeks of university in confinement with no emotional or educational support.

With this quality of teaching and experience available, students have a right to be angry, I think. I currently live with a student who is shielding and was almost faced with eviction - after he was promised a no-detriment policy on his course, only to find out this only applied to third-year students.

To address the situation in which we have been placed:

1. I propose that tuition fees are refunded completely because we are not getting the education and university experience we were promised. The Tories have shown that the money is there - why can't higher education be free for all?

2. There should be mass testing for students. Some people are shielding in university, and scared for their lives.

3. There should be free accommodation for those who are isolating, and students' rights as tenants need to be strengthened.

4. There should not be cuts to courses, jobs or staff pay - these should be funded by the government.

Student debt is a deterrent to students from lower-income backgrounds, especially in the current climate where job prospects are so poor. Meanwhile, we have a shortage of many essential staff - shouldn't we be encouraging young people to go to university to become teachers and nurses of the future?

The Socialist Party demands

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 14 October 2020:


Coronavirus news

Locked down, hard up, fight back!

As school cases soar - is contact tracing 'near breaking point'?

Even more delay in stopping school transmission?

National Education Union must launch action now

Nottingham Covid surge caused by Tory mismanagement

Under the microscope


Students

Students not to blame for unsafe uni conditions

"It's not fair" - lockdown students demand free education

Students speak out: isolation and uncertainty reign

Building a movement to fight for free education


What we think

Unite votes to cut affiliation fee to Labour


Workplace news

Usdaw elections: the battle for a fighting union

NEU Special Conference: A fight for safety in schools is urgently needed

Napo AGM 2020: Celebrating probation victory and preparing for challenges ahead

University workers ballot for action against in-person teaching

Stop Royal Mail's profit-driven plans to force postal workers to share vans

Unison: The Socialist is backing Hugo Pierre - for a fighting socialist general secretary!


Co-ops

Are cooperatives the answer to a failing capitalist system?


Campaigns

Stop NHS meltdown

Transport for London funding crunch

Oliver Campbell - Still fighting for justice

Fighting Fund - we're off to a good start


Obituary

Obituary: Raph Parkinson 1958-2020


International news

Greek workers and socialists celebrate convictions of Golden Dawn fascists

Nigeria: Mass protests force government to disband killer cop unit


Readers' opinion

Non-fiction: This Land - the story of a movement

The Socialist Inbox


 

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Related links:

Higher Education:

triangleSocialist Students conference

triangleStrike back for free education

triangleConference - Sunday 28 February

triangleUniversity workers ballot for action against in-person teaching

triangleStudents speak out: isolation and uncertainty reign

Education:

triangleTeachers demand fighting union strategy

triangleJohnson's 'road map' for schools: Act together to protect safety

triangleSouthern new members meeting - a vivid illustration of the appetite for socialist ideas

triangleThe NEU's 'big announcement' - lessons need to be learned

Students:

triangleTories target universities in free speech shakedown

triangleSocialist Students conference - postering

triangleTurkey: Bogaziçi university students protest appointment of government loyalist as rector

University:

triangleScrap fees, refund rents and pay a living grant

triangleRefund student rent and fees - fight for free education and make the 1% pay

Government:

trianglePublic sector workers respond to the budget

Student:

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

Cardiff:

triangleCardiff East Socialist Party: Struggle in Myanmar

Socialist Students:

triangleWhy you should come to Socialist Students online conference

Swansea:

triangleSwansea BLM protest against racist police brutality

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