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From: The Socialist issue 1105, 14 October 2020: Locked down, hard up, fight back!

Search site for keywords: Education - Students - Higher Education - US - Student - University - College - Lecturers - Coronavirus - Fees - London - Southampton - Nottingham

Students speak out: isolation and uncertainty reign

Young Socialists day of action, Southampton, 12.9.20, photo Young Socialists Southampton

Young Socialists day of action, Southampton, 12.9.20, photo Young Socialists Southampton   (Click to enlarge)

'Hollow and empty' higher education

Hollow and empty is how I would describe the first week of my higher education.

It's hard to be focused on a screen when there are constant notifications of people having one technical problem or another. The question of where all the money's gone becomes more and more relevant in my mind. It certainly couldn't have gone into IT; the IT is shit.

Hollow and empty is also how I would describe the eyes of my poor lecturers. They stare into the camera, counting the names on the screen, before having to muster all their enthusiasm to ask "can everyone hear me," while furiously typing the same into the live chat. Hollow and empty is our reply.

I feel sorry for my lecturers. They've been put in a situation that they haven't asked for and are trying to make the best of it. But the fact remains that we've paid their bosses full price for a full education, and hollow and empty is what we've got.

Students all over the world have a right to be angry now. What I've seen around my (admittedly nearly empty) campus, and among my flatmates, is an amazing amount of resilience.

These people have come from all over on empty promises. We have been taken advantage of by a university management which doesn't care about us, but only about the money we can provide. Until we force the universities to stop thinking of their students as cash cows, we'll have the right to be angry.

Robert Owens, Southampton University student

My whole floor is isolating - without help

The first couple of weeks of university have gone as well as many expected.

I am a first-year, currently in isolation alongside a large proportion of my fellow students. Many of them want to go back home already, and in hindsight wish they hadn't left.

Two of my three flatmates were alerted by track and trace after freshers, and then tested positive a few days later. This has meant the whole of my flat has had to stay inside for 14 days.

The uni has said it will give support, but not really specified in what way - apart from online learning. It's been a struggle to get hold of food as delivery is all booked.

They told us to get other students to help. This has been difficult - freshers was very different, and flat parties are out of the question for most of us, so it has been difficult to make connections.

Also, my accommodation isn't handling it well. With over 1,000 people in a small city block, cases here are through the roof. My whole floor is isolating!

The rush to get us back in for fees and rent has caused a massive spike in student cities. A lot of us are worrying - what happens now?

The options are: keep us locked up for the foreseeable future, or send us home to spread the disease further. Both terrible options that could have been avoided.

Jake George, Nottingham Trent student

FE students 'stuck in awful, endless limbo'

Further education students across the nation are stuck in a confusing, awful, seemingly endless limbo, filled with U-turns and dead ends. In any college you go into (if it's open, of course) there's a sense of dread.

Cases are rising again, and they're higher than before, but I'm still set to be in classes with around 23 other students next week. It's not a question of if a student is going to catch something, but when. If not me, then who?

And how long until it's a wildfire again? When the cases were in the low thousands we were told we couldn't sit our GCSEs. Now they're nearing 12,000 we're expected to carry on with business as usual? It's a great idea, isn't it?

But of course we all want to go back! Zoom meetings have turned our brains into mush, and I haven't sat in a classroom since March. Most people are finding it impossible to learn. We need normality.

But we've been robbed of our chance for normality. I don't want to be the Tories' collateral damage in their new scheme, 'Pretending Coronavirus Doesn't Exist'.

We were all looking forward to it, too. After we said goodbye to all of our secondary school friends, we were told that 'college is more about making even better friendships'. But how can we?

This just adds to the list of ways the government has failed us. It's that list that's turning young people away from 'mainstream' politics. The utter despair and lack of faith that each student has must lead to something greater.

Charlie Pandit, London FE college student

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