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Education is a right and free education is a Liberation issue

Friday 23-10-2015 - 14:33

I believe that education is a right. And I believe that everyone should have access to their rights, no matter what. Therefore, I believe in Free Education. For me, it's that simple.

Education is a social good, which allows people to develop and society to progress, and it is the state’s responsibility to provide it.

It’s not enough to be ‘free at the point of delivery’.  Debt matters.

This is where Free Education becomes a Liberation issue.  We can’t just say that if you manage to get your qualification then you will definitely get a good job and then be able to pay it back – because of discrimination in the labour market.

When black, LGBT+, women and disabled students struggle to find work in spite of their talents, or experience pay gaps during their careers, it matters that they have debt and that they are burdened with it the longest.

I also don’t think education is all about increasing your employability and capacity to earn.  It doesn’t matter to me that a person could receive a first rate education from an expensive institution and then go home, have children and depend of benefits.  You know why? Because everyone is intrinsically valuable, and everyone is worth investing in.

Let’s also be clear about why marketization of education is a terrible thing.

When students are treated like consumers, it doesn’t increase our rights; it damages the relationship between students, their peers, and academics.  When institutions are forced to compete, it doesn’t drive up standards; they do everything to push down costs.

All of which is bad news for disabled people.  When universities promote a sink or swim approach to education, disabled students sink, because we cost more and don’t conform to the educational conveyor belt.  When already inadequate systems of support, like Disabled Students Allowance, are cut, the cost of education goes up for those who can afford it least.  And when the government announces the scrapping of grants, it’s a slap in the face for those who need them, really need them.

And we’re sick of it.  We’re sick of hearing these announcements, being talked about in these ways, being forced to take part in a system which is fundamentally flawed, and pay through the nose for it.

So, yes, we will lobby and petition and meet with stakeholders and respond to consultations and all those things, but we will also take to the streets – last year, this year, next year, and every time we can, to demand our right.

The Disabled Students’ Campaign will be marching in London on  November 4th. There is a disabled students’ block planned near the front of the demonstration so we can stick together and have a loud presence.

Join us if you can – whether you come on coach from your campus, or you alone, or bunch of you who want to be part of the action, you can get in touch and join us on the day. It’s going to be a great protest, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to stand together and call for Free Education.

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