July 2014        

Education under attack

The austerity attack by this Government and its ally, the European Union, continues to affect the many thousands of our people who are still suffering not only austerity but, equally important, the anxiety and stress that this causes to the general health of our people. But clear evidence (If ever evidence was needed) has emerged that now our children are being targeted by the troika, and in turn there is a double whammy for their parents, for those that can afford to send their children to third-level education.
      The first report on the performance of the higher education system, 2014–16, reveals the disgraceful statistics emerging that state funding has been slashed by a quarter since 2007/08. At that time the state’s funding for third-level education was 76 per cent; for 2015/16 it will drop to barely 51 per cent. All of us know that education empowers everyone and gives the working class the means to enrich their lives, be it academically or through sport, music, or the arts.
      The present Labour Party’s minister for education speaks with the mantra that they have kept the wolves at bay, be it in funding for education or for social welfare. They have learnt well from the previous Government that if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes a fact.
      It is well known throughout the education system that the CEOs or presidents of these third-level colleges are also systematically attacking particular fields of education. If they help young people from working-class communities, then they have no earning value. Take, for example, the social justice courses in UCD: they are constantly being attacked, and the new president would like to see these courses disappear.
      These attacks on education will continue unless and until our unions take a stand, not just at their yearly conferences but at the front line. Unfortunately the unions are not bringing the people along with them in their battle, and they need to look again at their present strategy.
      Communication and transparency are vital tools in the struggle to ensure that the continued privatisation of all aspects of the educations system is blocked.

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