Third-level students are really struggling

UCC student of Government and Politics, PHILLIP BRENNAN outlines the hardship that third-level students are enduring and asks why the government is turning a blind eye
Third-level students are really struggling

Student Phillip Brennan pictured at UCC. Picture: Denis Minihane

HAVING an avid interest in Irish history and politics since I was young, coming from Clonakilty, which is the home of Michael Collins, enthused my interest in this area of study.

This led me to study BSc Government and Political Science at UCC.

Furthermore, Clonakilty was the birthplace of Tadhg Astna, a United Irish leader who died at the Battle of the Big Cross, the only conflict fought in Munster as part of the 1798 Rebellion.

Moreover, West Cork is the home of many Irish revolutionary leaders such as Tom Barry and Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa.

On Monday, October 4, the cabinet met at UCC to sign off on the National Development Plan (NDP), described as a ‘to-do list or wish list’.

I found the cabinet meeting historic, exciting, and allusive because of my interest in Irish politics.

However, the cabinet should have tried to engage with students and the UCC Student’s Union (SU) executive.

Moreover, the cabinet came when the SU announced the ‘Students Union Food Bank’ reopening. The food bank was reinstalled to help students who are struggling to buy food and other essential items. Furthermore, the Student’s Union also gives away boxes of disposable masks and hand sanitiser to help ease the number of Covid-19 cases and make UCC a safe environment.

On Wednesday, October 6, UCC students seeking food parcels had to be turned away when the SU ran out of food after just 50 minutes. The SU hope to open another food bank as soon as possible.

Students are starving in UCC and all over Ireland. This is the reality of having the highest colleges fees in the EU and increasing rents.

Students across the state are living in poverty. The cabinet, especially Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar, should have met with UCC students. They should address the issues we are facing. The NDP side-lined us.

The food bank is the second time this semester that the SU has had to intervene to provide students with their fundamental human rights. Students are being ignored.

On September 23, third-level students from across the country gathered outside Dáil Éireann to underscore the accommodation crisis, which has overcome boiling point.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) organised the ‘No Keys, No Degrees’ demonstration.

The USI has said that several students are being locked out of education and academic success due to a lack of suitable accommodation due to the crisis.

The protest saw many students preparing their tents and wrapping up in their sleeping bags as they settled outside Dáil Éireann for the night.

USI President, Clare Austick, stressed that students are forced to stay in hotels, B&Bs, hostels or face commuting long journeys to and from college. Many students are participating in ‘couch surfing’ for most of their academic year.

Furthermore, many students must commute long distances for college. Many students work long hours at the weekend to earn extra money to meet the demands of high rents and other expenses.

USI President Clare Austin specified that “We’re angry, we’re outraged, we’re frustrated. We’re annoyed that the Government just has not taken our calls on board and haven’t taken the student accommodation crisis seriously enough.”

Ireland’s housing crisis is affecting all members of society, not just third-level students.

Students are sitting their Junior Cert and Leaving Cert exams living in emergency accommodation. Why are we allowing this to happen?

Why are we allowing young people to live with their parents until their thirties and forties?

Why are we allowing young people to ponder the question of which country they should emigrate to? The Government are forcing future generations to leave the country.

Parents have died in emergency accommodation because they could not find a home. No child should have to endure the loss of a parent. Families have been torn apart because of emergency accommodation.

Nobody in Ireland should be going without a hot meal or a roof over their heads yet it is the reality we live in. This reality is brash and a violation of our fundamental human rights. It is the shameful truth. It is time to time to end tuition fees and introduce a nationwide rent freeze.

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