Address by Craig Mc Hugh, ISSU President at USI rally for education
Fellow students, Trade Union members, Fellow partners in education, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends; I am proud to be standing here before you on the right side of history. On the right side of education.
My name is Craig McHugh, I’m 17 years old and I’m a 5th year student in Dundalk. I’m currently the president of the Irish Second Level Students Union; ISSU.
I’d like to start off today with the fact that , a secondary student is given the opportunity to get up here and speak on behalf of his union and the students he serves to represent on the topic of just what education means to us and why it’s so important is phenomenal and a credit to USI. What I’m saying here is; The coalition that’s been established between USI, ISSU, TUI , SIPTU and IUFT and with everyone’s support today really paints a very positive picture that we all share in the view that education is quintessential to this country’s development and that education must be protected.
Today I want to speak to ye on what education means to me , and what educations means to second level students.
And I’m going to be honest. The majority of second level students will not appear to appreciate the value and importance of education to them, simply because… they’re so used to it.
They’re so used to setting their alarms for 7am to get up, have a shower, eat the breakfast, catch the bus and sit through what they see as a gruelling 9 hours of torture, praying for a free class so they can avoid the intimidating glare of their Irish teacher or the reality that Project Maths doesn’t really do any justice for them.
But what happens if we take that away from them, what happens if we make the cutbacks. Let’s look at what happened when we took away the career guidance from a number of secondary schools and left so many students bedazzled as to where they were going post leaving cert, or just why they get up every day at 7. Is it to face the grilling of the Irish teacher on the mothucains of Geimhean and Dis or to sit through a maths class, declaring to yourself that you’ll never be a pilot or a maths scientist . You have students wandering around from class to class not really knowing why their there, and hence their motivation drops, because without the guidance they need so much yet don’t even know from their guidance councillors they really don’t know why their in school. They lose the value of education, and with that education may even lose them. I’m talking about drop outs, you ask any career guidance teacher in this country how they keep students from giving in to the life of benefits and dole queues from the day they turn 16 or 18 and they’ll tell you something along the lines of this ; “I motivate them , I give them a reason, I show them why they come into school and what they’ll get out of it , in the long run whether that’s helping them through the UCAS or CAO situation, finding them a plc or even helping finding them a job, I’m showing them just why the get up to come in here and why they’ll thank themselves in the not so distant future.”
Ladies and Gentlemen we don’t appreciate a lot of things in this world,and we see a lot of things in this world as wants when in fact they’re indirect needs, and Guidance Councillors is just one of them. There’s so many more to this , especially in the education spectrum .
Now I’m going to talk to you about what education means to me, because I can imagine President Harmon is wondering what I’m getting at here and why I still haven’t answered the question that Liberty Hall has written all over it. For me #educationis the key. As cliché as that sounds, it really is. Education unlocks, sorry no, education knocks down the doors and barriers that are put before me and have been put before me yesterday, today and I know it will continue to do so tomorrow. Whether it’s getting lost after a night out in NICE and trying to order yourself a taxi but realising the company your on to doesn’t speak any English, I’m immediately taken back to the Junior Cert French Oral exam and boom, we’re sorted! Or what about basic budgeting? Its got maths and business written all over it! Or knowing my rights as an employee I’m immediately taken back to Junior Cert Business! And before I even get that job, I’d like to be able to sit through an interview and present myself well, It’s the newly implemented JCSA practical education system that’s going to help me there.
As you can see education is important. Ever so , at grass roots or primary and secondary level.But we all know that, don’t we? That’s why we’re all here today? We’re here to make sure education isn’t seen as a want at any circumstance, and to outline it’s existence as a right and as a need for all in this country.
But education only goes so far when it comes to knocking down barriers? In times like these, a university degree is almost a necessity for those wishing to purse senior or middle management positions and liver a comfortable lifestyle. But answer me this, how is anyone in this climate of redundancies and tax peaks for the middle class meant to get there with a contribution fee as high as €2750 ? Imagine this, you’ve decided you want to work in the world of events management, you’ve worked for the want of a better term your ass off and somehow managed to secure the 370 points you need for the UCD Course but all of a sudden you realise you can’t afford it. You can’t afford the fees, the accommodation or for that fact even the commute from Dundalk. The SUSI scheme won’t help you because your parents are just above the required salary that puts them in the bracket of middle class , and because of the insane taxes and levies imposed on them by the present government it means their real income can’t pay for your entrance into college? And what about the maintenance grant, well unfortunately there out of reach for someone like you too, why? Because the government hasn’t seen the importance of such a grant for those who need it, and are only focusing on who they THINK needs it.
And can we look at the impact education has on a society. Just as this event has written all over it. Education is a benefit to society. An educated individual will know how to vote, and why their voting an educated individual will know how to support themselves and stand on their own two feet. An educated individual is an independent individual and one that can only give back to society. Education doesn’t just benefit the educators or the students, it benefits us all.
If this country wants an educated workforce for the future, the type we love to boast about to the Europeans and americans and IT companies so eager to invest, it’s time we started showing it. It’s time we started showing we really want a well educated population.
Because, We can talk all day about the value of education and what it means to me; but we need the government and those with power and finance to get behind the initiative that drives the future, that spells out initiative , that spells out enterprise and that spells out diversity, that takes in the young and spurts out into the real world the developed, the mature, the ready and the educated, We need people to get behind education more now than ever. We need to rid the ideology that education is expendable and that it is not a necessity . Because I’m telling you this now, as a 5th year student who doesn’t necessarily see eye to eye with his irish teacher especially on the mochaneelach and stress of the scrudu beil, and doesn’t enjoy catching the 7:30 bus to sit through 9 hours of leaving cert coursework that I want the chance, and so many like me deserve the chance, deserve the right to have something to work for and that I want to know that I’m going to school for a reason, and the only way we’re ever going to get there is by getting those with the power and those with the finance to realise that #educationis important that #educationis not expendable and that #educationis the future.
Education means the future for me, the future for ye and the future for this country, so it’s time we started acting like that. It’s time Education receives the priority it deserves and that it’s not touched when it comes to cutbacks in this October’s budget.
Thank you all so much for your time, and with special thanks and consideration to USI who have put together an incredible event a fantastic “#educationis” campaign and to the executive who really are doing a great job in ensuring student voice and empowerment is a priority. And on behalf of all the students in second level education in Ireland thank you for hearing what we feel #educationis !