Angry Students Set to March Against Education Cuts

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Students, led by the group Free Education for Everyone Galway, are set to march against the planned increase of Third-Level fees to €3000 by 2015 and the abolition of the Postgraduate grant.

The march will take place in Galway on Wednesday, 29 February at 1pm, with participants marching from NUIG’s campus to Eyre Square where they will be met by speakers. It will be part of a National Day of Action held by students across the island, north and south, and will also be focused against cutbacks on primary and secondary level education. Mayo has a strong presence in the city’s student body.

Equality Officer at NUIG Student’s Union, William O’Brien, said that ‘The government’s abolition of the student grant for all incoming postgraduate students is yet another sickening attack by this odious, IMF dominated government on the living standards of young people. Now is the time for students to stand up for their rights and make their voices heard against this insane austerity agenda that is directly attacking students and killing our country’.

‘Measures such as increased school transport charges, cuts to English language teachers for newcomer children and the planned closure of smaller primary schools are all direct attacks on those in primary and secondary education and their families.’ said 1st year Medicine student Evelyn Fennelly. ‘I will be marching as I believe individuals from all levels of education need to unite if these vicious cuts are to be defeated’.

2nd year Arts student Sarah McCarthy said ‘This gombeen government and their IMF/ECB puppet masters has sacrificed the youth of the nation at the altar of neo-liberalism.  Each and every student must rise up and smash this hated bankers’ government into the ground.’

Free Education For Everyone is a nationwide grassroots campaign dedicated to fighting cutbacks to all levels of the education system as part of a wider campaign against austerity. Recent actions by the Galway branch include the occupation of Deputy Brian Walsh’s office in Bohermore last November, in which 9 activists were arrested, and a blockade of Fine Gael’s pre-budget think-in at the city’s Radisson Hotel last September.

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Open Letter from FEE

To whom it may concern,

Since the start of the school year in 2008 and the financial crisis which swept the globe, the government and the institutions mandated and constituted to administer and develop the education system have taken many radical steps to reform and reshape the education system. This is achieved within a framework derivative of the neo-liberal philosophy which was à la mode with governments and financial sectors during the genesis of the recession.

These decisions are made behind closed doors with little or no consultation with the public; which is almost always initiated from the outside. Since September 2011 and now; the IUA(Irish universities association), HEA(higher education authority), the NCCA(National council for curriculum and assessment) and the DoES( Department of education and science) have been engaging in discussions about how the education sector will adjust to the enormous cuts; both current and proposed. The “rationalisation” of first and second level education is also happening, with the future society having it’s development affected by decisions made under the “rationale” that class sizes should go up so as to pay unsecured (no legal or moral obligation) bondholders ( part of the financial elite who caused crisis in the first place).

In fact to date there have been a wide range of funding cuts to the education system. In primary education Deis schools; those in disadvantaged area where extra supports were provisioned have had severe staff cutbacks.Smaller schools will be forced to take on more pupils thus increasing the pupil-teacher ratio to the detriment of teachers’ ability to do their highly valuable work. School transport charges are also on the rise, which will have a crippling effect on rural communities or those with a school commute.Special needs is now less of a priority in trying to include those with learning, intellectual or physical issues in the greater society; the last government capping SNA (special needs assistants) at 10,400 and Official rhetoric suggesting further cuts as inevitable. Schools will have to learn to deal with less English language support teachers who work with immigrant children helping them cope with learning the language. Primary modern languages programmes are again, apparently disposable when cutting the €2.5 million being used to teach a range of modern foreign languages in more than 500 primary schools nationwide is on the government’s agenda while bringing not national, but international uproar as regressive. In secondary education professional guidance services are to be abolished coupled with the projected increases in student numbers across the board which means less funding per enrolled pupil/student; this will only have a debilitating effect on a population saddled with twenty years of austerity ahead of it.

Should the perspective third level student manage to run the gauntlet of a devastated primary and secondary education system, he or she will find an eviscerated system mangled by Bologna Accords, corporate administration and a lack of knowledge for knowledge’s sake and research funding centred around profitability/commercial value. Proposed funding cuts of 6% in third level by 2014 means a cap on student numbers or the complete reintroduction of tuition fees the most prohibitive funding mechanism when related to access equality. This is on the back of student contribution rises from €850 per student in 2008/09 to €2,250 with an intended rise to €3,000 by 2015 can hardly bode well for a system which has already seen a 6% cut in staff and a virtual freeze on capital spending.The abolition of post-graduate maintenance grants is a maneuver which flies in the face of establishment propaganda about “smart economies” as does the fact that Irish universities are only afforded 60% of the funding of their EU counterparts and since 1996 the proportion of exchequer income spent on education has drop from 19% to 16%; given these statistics it is not hard to see why Ireland is a lowly 27th out of 31 OECD countries when relating education spending to  wealth(GDP).

Student nurses are expected to work without pay due to a precarious medical system underfunded and warped with bureaucracy and private/public provisions where the state pays private companies/corporations to provide services for profit which the public service could do if given adequate resources; all a gift of the neo-liberalism of the Mary Harney/PD brand.

So the outlook for all stakeholders in our education system is quite bleak, however the vast majority of Irish people would agree on the importance of education both individually and socially and this is reflective in the numbers at protests and demonstration around the country corresponding to some of the cuts mentioned above.

Free Education for Everyone (FEE) is a national campaign based around third level access issues including; the fee increases, grant cuts/abolition and commercialisation of the campus. The campaign has arrived at the conclusion that a united front across the education sector is required to effectively fight and overturn those cuts already administered and those proposed for the future. Wednesday, the 29th of this month (February), has been set as a FEE National Day of Action Against All Education Cuts- in Galway the local campaign in conjunction with NUI Galway Students Union is organising a march. The March is proposed to commence at 1.00pm at the University road entrance to the campus, passing the Cathedral and moving finally on to Eyre Square where we will have speakers. All are welcome to join the demonstration and any organisations or individuals wishing to contribute or enquiring about more information can get in contact at feegalway@gmail.com.

In Solidarity,

Free Education For Everyone Galway

 

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