THE FUTURE OF THE STUDENT MOVEMENT: NUS ELECTIONS 2016 – DANIEL NIKOLLA

The Norwich Radical was born in the student movement, and we continue to be an active part within it. We recognise that while official structures are not the sum total of the movement, they play an undeniably important part and to understand the political consciousness of the student movement, you need to, in part, look at the National Union of Students. As we move into election season for the new NUS President, Vice Presidents and National Executive Council, we contacted all candidates in those elections and offered them the space to write about their election campaigns, why they are standing and their vision for NUS.

By Daniel Nikolla

I am a citizen of the world and I am the President of City and Islington College. Being a full time student, unpaid Student Union Officer and a non-EU International student in the UK is not easy at all! I take inspiration from the difficult things I have achieved in the past – Being an amateur to semi-PRO footballer from the age of nine, to moving to the UK aged 20. I also take inspiration from my family, who achieved so much in an oppressed society.

Back home I saw many opportunities ruined because of corruption, lack of education, lack of facilities and great pressure on young people.

I found home at my Student Union.   I found a place where I could start building on ideas, influence people’s lives and making a change.  I was able to fight the isolation within North/Central London and get involved in the national movement who is open for everyone.

I found a movement which believes that togetherness will improve our lives as students and in general.

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I believe in education existing to prepare excellent citizens to change the world, and that everyone should have the right to access it.

NUS is something I loved from day one.  From the name itself National Union of Students you would expect it to represent every student in the UK. I believe that NUS will always represent everyone that makes NUS represent them. Some might not agree with the sentence and I totally understand that very often many of us will not feel represented.  I will tell you what the solution is:

  1. Find the leader within your Student Union, community that knows what teamwork means, is driven, committed, and able to leave their comfort zone and challenge the outside environment.
  2. Encourage them to get involved even more and reach the extra mile. As soon as they have achieved this, you have achieved some form of representation which will only get bigger.

If you’re still unconvinced, I will tell you that within 1 year of getting elected as an officer at my Student Union, we’ve raised the representation and engagement of students, fought our battles within the institution, organised a lot more campaigns and activities than before, challenged the management in every level to get better student-life in the campus, got engaged with many national campaigns and gatherings like #CutTheCosts , Mental Health, Registration to vote, fundraising for refugees and Ebola relief, National day of Solidarity with Migrants and International Students, #LoveSUs, Prevent and Stand up to Racism, NUS Lead and Change, FE Union Development Summit, Area Review meetings and beyond. Teamwork has made us a really active FE Student Union.   More young people are empowered to get involved inside and out of the campus and that is what we want! We want the team to inspire masses, create leaders and make NUS better every day!

I came from Albania in 2013, studied on a very badly funded EFL course – English as foreign language, ESOL’s sibling course. Helped along by involvement in the football team I managed to settle down very quickly but wondered why Waltham Forest College sent International Students to study into a different building from home students.

I began a Creative Media Production HND course at City and Islington College and was elected as President shortly afterwards.  I realised how lucky students in the UK are to have an organisation like NUS and decided to create stronger links between my union and NUS, to link the students within my community to the wider campaigns happening.

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Having the experience of living in more than one country, I can tell you some terrible things that are affecting your life, or your family, or your community:

  1. Austerity is ‘killing’ Further Education and Adult Education.
  2. The Area Review is creating big corporations, whose governing bodies are full of white men and do not represent the diversity of our boroughs and students’ lives and teaching and learning processes are in danger.
  3. International Students are no longer encouraged to study in the UK, because of the horrendous rules of Home Office, forcing them out and creating bigger financial problems for the UK’s economy.
  4. Mental Health problems are emerging dramatically and we’re yet to have a well-coordinated plan for that.
  5. The government are managing to marginalise many parts of the movement leaving most of us unable and insecure about joining the fight together.
  6. People are seen and judged based on their religion and belief, gender and skin colour rather than what they bring to the table and what they’re mostly greater at.
  7. Global Warming is happening and we should be forefront of the movement against it.

I am one of those who have proved to keep their word and work hard, and I am standing for elections and seeking the delegates’ vote because I want to continue working with Shakira on the FE campaigns nationally. Being a supporter of the FE motions is amazing, but working on developing them and going the extra mile should be prioritised over ticking an FE box on the list of the things you have been asked to engage with.

I am standing for the NUS National Executive because I want to engage more unions to NEC and NUS, especially smaller HE providers and FE unions. It is easy to engage with big unions who have traditionally stood for the students. Our challenge is making the movement more accessible to the ones who find it inaccessible. We should fight for the soul of our movement and we should stand for the rights of everyone!

How many times have you met an Officer from another union and felt like this should happen more often?

One of my priorities is getting NUS NEC to coordinate a plan on getting University and College officers to organise regional and regular meetings and maybe work together more.

My record includes working with London Metropolitan Student Union on a few campaigns and activities and it feels great. As an FE officer you realise you have great potential.

I want NUS to continue doing what it does best and develop some new ideas that only aim to make it more representatives, united and winning body!

At times, I have felt racism and I have fought back.

My manifesto shows clearly what I stand for, but a few things I will do if elected are:

  1. Build the movement for free education, with national demos, days of action and lobbying.
  2. Work with the NUS VP FE to build the #FEUnplugged campaign to stop the cuts to FE.
  3. Lobby to get reinstate the 10h/week work allowance for International Students in FE
  4. Campaign against austerity: tackle poverty, rising rents and travel costs
  5. Co-ordinate a plan of regional and local FE/HE union networks to work on shared interests, including Mental Health issues
  6. Campaign to get Sabbatical Officers in every College Students’ Union and increase FE representation within NUS’ structures
  7. Fight for a campaigning student movement – opposing war, climate change, nuclear weapons and standing up for justice for Palestine.
  8. Champion a student movement that defends our diversity
  9. Oppose attacks on international students – Fight visa restrictions and deportations!
  10. Campaign against racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and fascism.
  11. Campaign to get a better deal and higher minimum wage for apprentices.
  12. Strengthening the connection with nations and campaign alongside them.

There are nearly 200.000 HE students who take their courses in FE and in my college I have stood for them and get the management to take them more seriously.

At times, I have felt racism and I have fought back. I am confident and I do believe every one of us can tackle everything, by themselves or with our help.

My work has been awarded a ‘International Student Best Officer of the Year’ (highly commended) and I aim to continue campaigning, engaging and get better deals for students in the UK.

Nations are very important members of NUS and we need to work all, as one team!

So for a united, fighting student movement that takes on the Tories, austerity, racism, inequality, climate change and war please consider voting Daniel Nikolla #1 for the NUS National Executive  Council (Block of 15).

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