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Statement of solidarity with students in Canada

Wednesday 02-11-2016 - 12:20

Today, students in Canada are taking action all over the country for free education. Over 44 actions are taking place, covering universities and campuses in every single Canadian province, through which our Canadian counter parts are making their demands heard.

By doing so they are also the first country to kick off the international wave of actions this month in the fight for a free education system, accessible to all, at any point in life.

All across the country students are marching, rallying, and holding walk outs to mark the day and make what is – when all is said and done – a simple demand: Education is a social good. It is a good which society as a whole needs, and benefits from. It is a good that needs to be recognised as collectively enjoyed and collectively organised. It is a good that has to be accessible to all irrelevant of background and economic power. As such it is a good which needs to be financed publically and be free for all to access.

In June this year, I had the incredible privilege of addressing the Canadian Federation of Students’ conference. I shared our political vision for education, the challenges we face, and the ways in which we proposed to take action. What struck me was the way in which, despite very different national contexts, much of the structural barriers and political problems we were facing were the same. From the structural barriers faced by students from liberation and working class backgrounds, the ill-treatment of international students, and growing state repression to the growing burden of debt carried by students and the longer term societal shift towards understanding education as a personal investment with the hope of gaining a comparative advantage in an ever shrinking job market – the challenge we face unite us across the Atlantic, and beyond.

At their conference, I expressed NUS’ solidarity with their campaign in Canada and emphasised the fact that our fight for a different – a better – education system, which can benefit the vast majority in society is a united one. As we face the growing xenophobic pressures of governments trying to blame the current state of affairs on migrants, or foreigners, or refugees (depending on the flavour of the week) reminding ourselves of the shared realities, shared challenges, and shared struggles across the globe, serves as an important reminder of the power and meaning of solidarity.  The solidarity we give today to Canadian students – which we extend at the same time to students resisting in France, in South Africa, in Turkey, and all over the world – is not an act of charity, or even of good will. It is the recognition that their struggle is ours and that ours is theirs. It is the deep conviction that our successes – as well as our defeats – have been and will continue to be deeply intertwined.

In three weeks time, on the 19th November, students and staff members from across the UK, in both Higher and Further Education, will join this wave of international action and march against the government’s assault on our institutions of learning. We too will put forward our vision for a different – a better – sector, for a free, liberated, and accessible education system for all, at any point in life. Like our Canadian counter-parts today, the demonstration will be a focal point of unity and strength through protest, as well as a starting point for a longer-term campaign to change to direction of travel in our colleges and universities.

As always, the struggle continues, all solidarity and power to the Canadian students in struggle, and see you on #Nov19.

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