Austerity. This is a word we all are familiar with. There is no money, we have to cut, tough decisions have to be made. Again familiar rhetoric we hear so often as our maintenance grants are reduced, transport subsidies cut and lecturers made redundant.
Yes these are tough decisions, but they are just that; decisions. Choices. The people who make the call are choosing to cut money from some of the most vulnerable in society. They have made those decisions and now must accept the consequences. We are quickly moving towards a further education system designed like a sixth form, excluding those who need education most. Unreachable and exclusive.
Further education is often referred to as a second choice, the place through which people can change and shape their futures, achieve their potential. It’s a stepping stone into the working world, industry and higher education. It’s the platform that everyone stands on to move forwards in life. So why is further education continuously undervalued and underfunded? This is not acceptable.
On April 29th hundreds of students, unionists, staff and lecturers protested against the 63 million pound cuts to the education budget. They are protesting against the uncertainty and the injustice. Not knowing if their job was next on the line or if their course was being cut. The injustice that those who need education most are being shut out, shouted down and ignored.
The action wasn’t just about fighting to protect someone’s salary. It’s more than that. We need to demand a sustainable future for education and ensure that fair opportunities are available for all regardless of age, gender, location or station in life.
A heard a student recently repeat the famous quote Nelson Mandela said. He said,” “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Well comrades, our weapon is being dismantled. We are here today, not to take a day off college but to make sure that we still have colleges to go back to. We live in turbulent times and the skills learned in Further Education equip people with the tools to challenge and change the world we live in.” I couldn’t agree with him more.
We are days away from a General Election and months away from the Assembly elections. Now is the time to get political. We must hold our politicians to account for their choices. On May 7th we take to the polling stations and make our voices heard. Students are a force to be reckoned with. We will have a say in our futures and will not be ignored. Let’s move together, take action so that the Government don’t carry on with the lie that Young People are apathetic.
- Ebbi Ferguson, NUS Wales Deputy President