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‘Rally for Education’ whips up a storm outside Parliament

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Students, lecturers, politicians and more gathered outside the Scottish Parliament today for NUS Scotland’s ‘Rally for Education’.

There was a lively atmosphere with drums, clapping, and chants of “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts” rippling through the crowd. Student unions and UCU branches from across Scotland were in attendance with UWS (University of West Scotland), Strathclyde, Edinburgh and Dundee amongst those represented.

Strathclyde Students’ Union
Image Credit – Peter Humfrey

Stirling’s own sabbatical officers; Nela Cadinanos Gonzalez, Calum Brown, and Alyson Mackay were all there with Mackay addressing the crowd in a passionate speech.

Stirling’s sabbs – Alyson, Nela, and Calum, were all in attendance.
Image Credit – Peter Humfrey
Rally for Education – What’s it all about?

The ‘Rally for Education’ was a rally hosted outside Scottish Parliament by NUS Scotland with a number of other groups in attendance, including a strong UCU showing.

On their website NUS Scotland stated:

“We need an education system that is funded, accessible, lifelong, and democratic. We are protesting against an education system that fails to support students and leaves many of us struggling in poverty. We are protesting because this same education system fails to value the staff at our institutions.”

The rally coincided with the ongoing UCU strikes across Scotland, and solidarity with staff was a theme readily apparent throughout the event.

The event precedes the NUS National Student Strike scheduled for next week (March 2). You can read more about the strike and the Student Union’s support for it here.

Mackay spoke of her hope that “maybe, just maybe having a degree” might break the “circle of poverty” before delivering the blow that she doesn’t see “the cycle being broken anytime soon” She went on to speak of “false hope, a false dream” sold to children in a system where poverty is being “perpetuated day-in, day-out”. Mackay concluded her speech by calling for the system to be “dismantled and rebuilt using fresh parts” wryly observing “I’m all for recycling but this stuff cannot be reused”.

Video Credit – Peter Humfrey

Mackay’s words captured the sense of frustration felt by many at the rally and the desire for change.

Speaking to Brig, UWS student president, Ellie Gomersall, talked of standing up to “persistent cuts to education” and being “against student poverty” Gomersall went on to speak of the need for increased funding, summer student finance payments, and that education needs to be “no longer privatised, no longer for profit”. She plans on attending the NUS walkout event in London next week with other UWS students.

Image Credit – Peter Humfrey

There was a long list of speakers with NUS Scotland’s Matt Crilly, kicking things off. A number of MSPs including former Scottish Lib Dem leader, Willie Rennie, and the SNP’s Kaukab Stewart spoke. Scottish Labour’s Michael Marra, and the Scottish Green’s Maggie Chapman, also addressed the rally.

Beyond that UCU Scotland’s and UK’s presidents both spoke along with a handful of other speakers.

MSP Michael Marra speaking at the ‘Rally for Education’
Image Credit – Peter Humfrey
MSP Kaukab Stewart addresses the crowd
Image Credit – Peter Humfrey

Stirling’s VP Education, Calum Brown, spoke to Brig, about why he and the other sabbatical officers attended the rally, stating: “the Union is here to support staff and students over their poor conditions at universities”

Quoting Matt Crilly’s, Brown spoke of how higher education had “gone down the drain” and echoed Alyson Mackay’s comments on rebuilding the system.

Image Credit – Peter Humfrey

Answering a question on whether change could truly be achieved through events like today’s, Calum spoke of how the “power was in the people”.

He also insisted “you can make the difference” reflecting on his own journey from a student having no involvement in student politics “at all” to supporting his fellow sabbatical officers, staff and students for a “a fair, equal, and democratised education”.

Image Credit – Peter Humfrey

On the subject of next week’s call for walkouts, Brown urged students to consult with their staff members and that seminar attendance would still be in place, so to check first. He went on to remind students the Union was there to answer any questions from students with “the door always being open”

Students who have any questions can contact the Union at theunion@stir.ac.uk

Featured Image Credit – Peter Humfrey

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Journalism Studies undergraduate at the University of Stirling

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