The Norwich Radical was born in the student movement, and we continue to play an active role within it. We recognise that while official structures are not the sum total of the movement, they are undeniably important. Following a highly controversial year for both the National Union of Students itself and the higher education sector as a whole, we contacted all candidates standing for the President, Vice-President and National Executive Council roles and offered them the space to write about their election campaigns, why they are standing and their visions for NUS.
Voting will take place at NUS National Conference, held this year in Glasgow between March 27th and 29th. Full information on the conference can be found here. The below statement is from Shakira Martin, NUS President candidate.
When I first decided to run for a national position two years for VP FE it was to get FE on the agenda. My FE Family was the largest body of people in the organisation but completely and utterly unrepresented. I wanted to bring real life issues that FE students faced daily to the forefront – knife crime, domestic violence, gang culture, those sorts of things. I decided to run to be President because I saw that NUS wasn’t working for so many people, it wasn’t going in the direction that would win for students and wasn’t going to be fit for the future generations of students. It wasn’t talking about issues that our members could relate to, students often felt distanced and isolated from their own National Union, resulting in disaffiliation campaigns. I decided to run for NUS President last year to put NUS back into the hands of its members, talking about student debt, sexual harassment, college mergers; to put the issues that student campaigners prioritised on the national agenda.
I want an NUS that is finally representing our entire range of our membership
At present, there is still a long way to go, I inherited a broken, toxic NUS that was very divided and I want to get NUS into a place where people know what we stand for. Everyone knows what NUS is against but it’s time to amplify our positive vision for what students stand for – and how students and NUS think we should get there. The current state of NUS is ultimately where the culture, both on social media and in person, still isn’t good enough – we’ve started this work this year with our race equality work from the institutional racism review and other small changes, but we still need to work together to really create internal change.
My vision for NUS starts with knowing what we need and want: a truly accessible education system where everybody can have the opportunity to achieve their full potential whether that’s through further education, higher education, or an apprenticeship. Accessible means all levels, all places, all the way across the country. So my vision is to have an NUS that is fit for the fight to achieve this, that is general election ready to put the student vision to all parties, so we can put our demands at the forefront of the government’s agenda when they’re writing their plans for education.
I want NUS to be that credible voice of students so that whenever there are issues or debates or policies created around students or education, NUS is at the heart of that conversation, where student representation is at every level of our institutions, but also embedded into the government stakeholders like DfE or OfS. My vision for NUS is one that is open, where everyone is welcome, where we focus on what brings us together not what divides us. I want an NUS that is finally representing our entire range of our membership, international students, mature students, student parents, student carers and care leavers alike. I want an NUS that is gunna be around for many many years to come, for my children, for my children’s children. A strong campaigning National Union that wins for student day in, day out and is a fiery force to be reckoned with.
I will continue the work of the poverty commission, being launched at National Conference, to build a campaigning strategy with students and unions to call for a full reinstatement of maintenance grants, and continue to put loudly and firmly forward our vision for a free, accessible education system for everyone. The fact that we’ve already secured a full review of both higher and further education needs to be capitalised on.
I want to host the first parents and carers in leadership conference, to bring together parents and carers from across the country in an empowering environment, developing their skills as leaders and working with external agencies and organisations to look at ways to make education a better resources environment for these people. Part of this will be looking at how we develop a campaign and strategy for getting better support for parents and carers who are part or full time officers, so that they feel completely capable of fulfilling their role.
I want to work on how we change the culture of our spaces, so that we can have proper but open debates and challenge each other with more understanding of everyone’s journey and background. This is so vital if we are going to have genuinely productive and healthy conversations on the key issues that everyone cares about, and only by doing this do we start to work towards a campaigning Union that everyone feels a part of and feels they can truly influence. We have made so much progress this year on implementing the findings from the institutional racism review, and as the first black female president I am determined this work will not stop whilst I’m president.
We must create an NUS that welcomes everyone, otherwise we will never achieve our aims as a collective. To continue fighting for students in the Brexit negotiations, it is so so important that NUS is clear that we firmly believe young people’s voices should be driving these talks, that our government needs to do more to crack down on the racism and xenophobia that has only increased since the leave vote. We need to be able to travel widely, to learn in a variety of places as we currently can with Erasmus+ and we must remain open as a country to international students, who are an invaluable part of so much of our education.
All images courtesy of Shakira Martin
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