What the Government SHOULD be saying to Students

Student Window – Source: Mike Egerton / PA

Rather than blaming students for socialising and spreading Covid-19, the Government should be sending this sort of message to our students and young people.

Dear young people

You have sacrificed so much already in this pandemic. Going out, seeing friends, entire social lives, relationships, schooling, exams, travels, earning money, fees you’ve paid… All sacrificed at the most crucial time of your lives and, mostly, for the safety of others.

We cannot thank you enough for what you have already done. We know this has brought huge uncertainty, isolation, anxiety and a sense of powerlessness to so many of you, right at the time when you most need the opposite.

As you know, we are in a national and global crisis such as we’ve never experienced before. And to get through it, we have to ask you to step up again: to be careful, responsible and caring over these coming months, just as you were before.

At the same time, it is absolutely within our power – as parents, older adults, academics,  universities and above all as your government – to champion your needs; to put them at the heart of our thinking, decisions, policies and funding, in order to minimise the impact of this terrible time on you and, above all, to treat you fairly.

So while you step up again to keep others safe, we’ll do everything in our power and invest as much money as is possible, just as we’ve done elsewhere for the economy and other groups, so you have:

  • Regular, speedy, local testing to ensure your safety, protect others, and enable your freedom
  • A rich, participatory, high quality education with use of facilities and interaction with peers
  • Empowerment, so you can help shape your education with your own experiences
  • Effective mental health support via ways that work for you

Students, you were sold (quite literally) a dream of higher education: blended learning, connection and interaction with fellow students and lecturers, using libraries and other spaces, and your safety well managed throughout. You believed, signed up for, and are now paying for this. Many of you have arrived in new cities to live in tiny cubicles with very little money, not knowing a soul. Others are tied into rent agreements with private landlords and student debt from previous years. All because you believed the dream, and wanted to live your independent lives and learn.

We will make sure you get as much of what you signed up for as possible. And where it falls short in education or in accommodation, for reasons beyond our power, you’ll be refunded, as any other consumer would be. It’s that simple.

And if we don’t do all this? If instead we ignore, fail to support, exploit and even blame young people, marginalising you from the collective effort? The cost to you and to society, now and for a long time to come, is simply too great to contemplate.

So thank you all again, so much, for stepping up and doing your part. This time will pass. We will come through this together. And – with the right leadership and example from us – you will have learnt so much of what is most important in this life: caring, community and fairness.

As young adults and citizens who will shape the world to come, what could be more important for you to experience than this from the adults and institutions around you?

And as older adults, who have had our younger years, our education and our freedom, what could possibly be more important than this to give?

Yours sincerely,
Your Government

Is this not what our Government should be saying to our students?

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