Students in the UK sometimes complain that they have it tough. It is nothing however, compared to the trials that students face studying in Turkmenistan. I would like to see UK students taking to the streets to stand side-by-side with their Turkmen brothers.
The Turkmen authorities, in a recent “crack-down” have introduced a series of oppressive measures on teachers and students including:
- Secondary school teachers are now required to be at work from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. each school day regardless of their class hours
- University students are not to leave the university premises before 6 p.m. Those who live in dormitories must be in bed before 11 p.m. and are not permitted to do their homework after that time.
There was no reason given for these new measures from the notoriously authoritarian and erratic regime. Many within the Turkmen government fear grass-roots activism stemming from the academic minorities after up-risings across North Africa.
This all comes after Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov sacked the deputy prime minister Ashgabat Polytechnic Institute after a death earlier this month for failing to stop a party that led to the death of a female student.
These measures add to the already restrictive atmosphere in which academia operates. Students at Turkmen colleges and universities are not allowed to appear in foreign media, leave the country on vacation, drive a car, or use mobile phones on university premises. There is of course, little chance of protest within Turkmenistan. This is another right that Turkmen citizens do not enjoy.
Could we organise the NUS in this country to stand in solidarity with the students of Turkmenistan? Could we get the NUS to call for a reversal of these measures?
Education is something we take for granted. It is important to remember, that for many around the world the levels of education we receive in this country are merely an aspiration.
students have strange understandings of money
I wrote before about how Aaron Porter refused to answer whether the new system of tuition fees is more or less fair than the old system. I wrote that blog then because I was getting frustrated with people missing the subtleties of the issue. It appears now however, there is a rather large elephant in the room that all sides of the debate are ignoring.
The perception of money is far more important than the reality of what people have to spend. Regardless of how much money someone will end up paying to go to university, it is student’s perception of money that will in the end determine whether or not they will apply. Simply put, I opposed the rise in tuition fee’s most vehemently because of the headline figure of £9,000 (to put it into context it is exactly the same as annual salary). This sort of money makes those from middle to lower-income families’ shudder. Most students will not be thinking about potential future income levels etc…But will be reading front page newspaper headlines. Those in power have to think about the consequences of this.
In reality, if you leave university and you earn less than £21,000 you pay nothing for your degree (I had to pay for my degree in full). This is about 50% of Britain’s current workforce. Every pupil will pay LESS per month than they currently do under the new system. Yet, this is not what A-levels students are thinking about. We now have to make a concerted effort to make sure every potential student is in an educated position to make a fully informed decision about whether or not to go to university. Yes, it might be expensive (very expensive) but only if you are earning a decent salary when you come out the other end. University graduates will continue to be at the centre of our economic future and we cannot afford to let talented individuals mis-out on these opportunities.
Meanwhile, we who believe in a state funded education system should continue to make those arguments vehemently within our own circles. For during this whole debate about a rise in tuition fees it should not be lost that education is a right nor a privilege.