Report from the Teach-in at Essex

On Wednesday March 24 the Essex Education Activist Network organised the very first regional ‘Take Back Education’ teach-in at the University of Essex in Colchester.

The teach-in was opened by SU President Ibby Mehmet, Dr. David McNeill, a senior lecturer from the Philosophy Department, Nathan Bolton, SU Campaigns Officer and Sarah Young, one of the students from Sussex University who have organized the student occupations and build solidarity with the striking lecturers.

As Sussex students had made the news and Essex students had used the 18th March to build solidarity with the striking lecturers at Sussex and collected a total of £60 for their strike fund the room was electrified when Sarah Young got up to speak about the united action between staff and students taking place only a few hours down the road.

Nathan Bolton, SU Campaigns Officer stated that we need to build a network of solidarity that coordinates local and national actions. His point was reinforced by the fact that the regional CWU shop steward sent his solidarity greetings to the teach-in which stated: If we fight, we can win! 

The students broke up into the workshops ‘What should our education look like?’ and ‘The challenge for international students: fighting racism, islamophobia and the points based immigration system’.

Adam Warner, a Philosophy postgraduate student who spoke in the former session enthused students with a talk that connected Aristotles’ Nicomachean Ethics with Paulo Freire and the invasion of Iraq. He said: “I don’t know what else to call this other than a crisis in education”.

The latter session saw many new students join the teach-in who hadn’t been in the opening session. Bogdan Carmaciu, a Romanian student who had attended the National Teach-In at King’s College said that international students and home students must stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight against education cuts if we want to win. This must involve an active fight against islamophobia and racism.

Throughout the afternoon Essex students were building solidarity with the Kings College lecturers who will be on strike on Tuesday by collecting money and taking photos with ‘I support the KCL lecturers’.

Sean Vernell from the UCU national executive (pc), Alex Callinicos from King’s College and Elizabeth Mantzari, a Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Essex closed the teach-in. Elizabeth spoke about the precarisation and casualisation of academic staff and how she has tried to organize part-time staff and other Graduate teaching assistants. She closed by saying that this is not only a fight for a different vision of education but a fight for a different vision of a society.

For more photos and information about the campaign, see the Essex Education Activist Network group on Facebook or email nocutsatessex@googlemail.com

About educationactivistnetwork
The education activist network provides national coordination for trade unionists, academics, university workers and student campaigners fighting to defend jobs and education in the UK.

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