Once again, the sectarian parties in Stormont have shown that when it comes to slashing education, they are far from divided. Huge cuts have been agreed to the education budget and the Department of Employment and Learning that will materialise into massive losses in further and higher education places and job losses which will leave schools “inoperable”, according to teachers’ union UTU.
As a result of the cut to the Department of Employment and Learning, some 17,000 education and training places will be lost – 1,100 in universities and 16,000 in further education. Politicians and the media are always talking about the ‘brain drain’ that exists here, with young people being forced to leave in order to find a decent future. These cuts will only serve to make this even worse as thousands of students go to Britain and further afield in search of education, many of whom won’t come back. Thousands more will simply be forced onto the dole queue when youth unemployment is already around 25%.
More recently it has been announced that St Mary’s teacher training college in West Belfast is facing a 30% cut in their annual budget. The last few weeks has seen the positive development of a coordinated opposition by the students’ unions, trade unions and student activists – along with members of socialist youth to the cuts at St Marys.
However the “outrage” expressed by Sinn Féin is totally hypocritical considering their politicians condemning cuts made by Stephen Farry from the platform at protests voted in favour of the same budget which has caused this lack of funding.
Around 1,450 jobs are at risk. This will lead to growing class sizes, with teaching and support staff more stretched. This will have a detrimental impact on young people’s education. These jobs will not be available to a new generation of young teachers and others looking for work, again driving people abroad in search of work. Undoubtedly, the threat of higher tuition fees, cuts to financial support and other attacks will come back on the agenda.
Socialist Youth argue that there is an alternative to this blatant attack on working class and young people and we need to fight back. Just like we did when EMA was threatened with abolition in 2009, we need a unified fight back of young people from across the divide, coming out and protesting against these cuts. The politicians talk of recovery but it’s only for the bankers and the super-rich. For workers and young people, there is no end in sight to cuts, privatisation and attacks on our rights and living standards unless we stand up!
The students’ movement here should unite with the trade unions, bringing thousands of students onto the streets on March 13th, the day of action against Stormont’s austerity budget. This can be the beginning of a mass movement to fight for the future we deserve!