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The Government doesn’t get it — education is a right, not a privilege

I AM a student of Political Science in the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Lucky for me, I, being currently enrolled in the university, will dodge the bullet of full fees, and will only have to pay an €1,800 registration fee next September to finish my education, (itself an increase of €900 from last year). With every passing day, every champagne speech and every helicopter trip he takes, it’s looking more and more likely that our Education Minister Batt O’Keefe is set to reintroduce full fees to the country.

Full fees means the prospective student will have to pay €15,000 to get enrol in a standard, three-year degree course, (and that's before costs like accommodation, food, clothes, electricity etc are factored into the equation).

Many taxpayers feel this is just, that we students are a fairly lazy, rowdy bunch who sit around cafes on laptops debating and wasting money.

This is wrong for a number of reasons. Firstly, the whole retail industry is to a large extent kept afloat by student labour, (bartenders, grocery store assistants, fast food workers, clothes store workers, etc).

Second, the fact is that university graduates tend to pay a higher rate of tax upon graduation anyways, so any taxpayers contribution to their education will almost definitely be repaid in full.

Third, we are definitely not lazy considering the 20 to 30 or so hours a week we do of college work on top of the 20 or so hours a week most of us work. Finally, even if all three other points weren’t the case, that’s how taxation works. I have never needed to phone the police, doesn’t mean I don't want to pay taxes for them.

Presumably, the Government tends to keep university levels up with grants and the like?

So far, I haven’t heard anything about any sort of increased grant for low-income families, limiting the potential of thousands of school leavers every year to further their education. Still, there’ll be plenty of people from high income families ready, willing and able to pay for their education.So what if the lower income students will never have the same opportunities?

Not content to strike at third-levellers alone, O’Keefe and Brian Cowen have gone after secondary and primary schools too.

The Irish National Teacher’s Organisation have released a pamphlet called “There is a Better, Fairer Way” to provide the Government with an alternative to their current course of action, but has anyone in the Government actually read it? The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland general secretary John White warned “Any further depletion of resources for schools will lengthen the recession and Ireland will be at a severe disadvantage when the global economy begins to recover”.

Anybody who has read even one newspaper in the last six months will know I’m not exaggerating, but if you think I am, ask a local school teacher. If knowledge is power then we’ll soon be the weakest kid in the playground.

I will be perfectly content to shoulder my part of the burden, and will happily pay any tax increase that is deemed necessary, but it’s very hard to take what our current government say seriously when they are able to guarantee our bankers for €billions of euro

Our government’s education policies are falling apart, as are their promises to us and our faith in them.

While O’Keefe is taking €helicopter trips instead of driving his car like a normal person, we’re being told our pensions may have to go, our health costs will go up and our education is going to cost.

If any of you out there feel even remotely as strongly about this hypocrisy as any right-thinking taxpayer should, take the opportunity to show our politicians just what you think of them in the coming local elections and put them out. Education — first, second and third-level — is a right, not a privilege.

Edmund King




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