Teachers’ strike has hit poorer students like me, writes Durham undergraduate SAMANTHA SMITH

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As I write on this cold December day, I can see a crowd gathering outside the doors of my college at Durham University, some carrying thermos flasks.

You might mistake it for something quite festive and cheerful, if it weren’t for the garish slogans on the signs they angrily wave. One of them said, ‘I prefer to teach.’

To which it is tempting to answer: “So why not you?

The answer is that some college professors seem determined to put their own agenda ahead of what should be their primary role of educating students – paying students, let’s not forget.

Under the banner of the University and College Union (UCU), professors at 58 UK universities have once again removed tools, this time on strike for three days as they demanded improvements in wages, working conditions and pension plans.

As I write on this cold December day, I can see a crowd gathering outside the doors of my college at Durham University, some carrying thermos flasks

Meanwhile, students like me are caught in the middle – the collateral damage of an argument that should be between employers and employees.

And let’s not forget: we have already had our education heavily disrupted by the pandemic for almost two years.

Like school children, we went through months of limited online learning and passed exams in subjects that many had to learn on their own.

Many have faced even greater personal challenges, including mental health issues caused by isolation from repeated blockages and the stress of trying to study without guidance, leadership or peer support.

One in three freshmen suffers from depression or anxiety, according to a study published this week in the British Medical Journal.

The answer is that some college professors seem determined to put their own agenda ahead of what should be their primary role of educating students – paying students, let’s not forget.

My college years are precious to me – because they are hard earned. I became homeless at 16 and spent my sixth grade surfing on people’s sofas, working three minimum wage jobs to support myself, often not knowing where my next meal would come from.

But I worked hard to get the best A level possible, encouraged by brilliant school teachers who went to incredible lengths to support me.

Some even did my laundry and gave me a place to shower and sleep. But, above all, they did everything to encourage me to go to college.

They knew that a diploma would be my golden ticket out of poverty.

But now it looks like it’s compromised – ripped off by some of the very people who are supposed to deliver it.

It’s like a slap in the face. Not just for me, but for all of us who have worked hard to reach college, to find that our professors put their own goals ahead of the young people they are paid to educate.

On the one hand, students are treated like consumers, wooed with glossy brochures promising high-quality education – thanks to loans that will take decades to pay off, if at all.

My debt will total around £ 50,000 by the time I graduate.

On the other hand, we are treated as assets to be exploited. And those promises of first-class in-person teaching, seminars and tutorials where we could debate, exchange ideas, and broaden our minds were too quickly dropped.

And it’s not just because of the Covid. Students are now affected by strikes every year since 2018.

Don’t teachers realize how damaging this is? Or do they just don’t care?

I study law which would normally involve a large number of lectures, tutorials, and seminars. But due to “Covid restrictions” the majority of my teaching remains online. Why?

Meanwhile, students like me are caught in the midst of the collateral damage of an argument that should be between employers and employees.

Meanwhile, students like me are caught in the middle – the collateral damage of a feud that should be between employers and employees.

Under the banner of the University and College Union (UCU), professors at 58 universities across Britain have again removed tools, this time on strike for three days as they demand improvements in wages, working conditions work and pension plans.

There is currently no national legal limit on the number of people allowed to congregate indoors – and in most workplaces people are back to their pre-Covid levels.

My university has yet to explain why we have to follow rules that the rest of the country does not follow.

And if it’s not Covid or the protests against pensions and wages that are wrenching our education, it is the political score and the ideology.

In June this year, 150 donations refused to teach students at Oriel College at the University of Oxford to protest the decision not to bring down the statue of its benefactor Cecil Rhodes.

Punishing current students for “institutional racism” is utterly ridiculous.

And what’s more, shouldn’t these so-called educators be the first to say that the debate is much more constructive than the boycott? Maybe not.

Consider poor professor Kathleen Stock, kicked out of the University of Sussex for her views on biological sex by some trans-activist students and many of her own colleagues.

Consider poor professor Kathleen Stock, kicked out of the University of Sussex for her views on biological sex by some trans-activist students and many of her own colleagues.

Consider poor professor Kathleen Stock, kicked out of the University of Sussex for her views on biological sex by some trans-activist students and many of her own colleagues.

The general secretary of the Union of Universities and Colleges – the same union behind this week’s strikes – refused to support her.

No wonder the vice-chancellors claimed this week that the UCU had been hijacked by the hard left.

The truth is, alert and aggressive personal agendas have become the norm in academia – whether it’s trans ideology, “white privilege” or, indeed, speakers’ own retreats.

Let’s be clear: I passionately believe that people should be free to express their opinions – but why do professors always have to be so quick to knock, skipping the students they care for in the blink of an eye?

The great irony is that it is people from the poorest backgrounds, whom the leftists always claim to defend, who will pay the price.

Education was supposed to be the key to a better future – they are taking that opportunity away from me.


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