Jan Ducky was coming to enrol on the Access to Higher Education — social science and humanities. Jan is from the Czech Republic and is currently working as a hospital cleaner part time. He decided not to cross the picket line and instead joined the protest.
Why did you decide not to cross the picket line?
Because of my solidarity to the teachers. Because education is the most important thing. I attended some meetings in SOAS, “Ideas for Freedom”, about strikes, unions, things like that. I heard some good ideas, and some unrealistic ones. But I decided that I want to support people, struggling not just for themselves, but for others. These teachers work for all of us, not just for themselves.
What are the reasons for the education cuts?
The excuse is the recession, the Ministry of Defence is over budget because of war and the MPs have spent the money on their expenses. So now they need to get the money from somewhere, they get it from poor people so that they can continue to support rich people.
How do you think we can win this strike?
It cannot be stopped with a small amount of people. Anyone asked not to go into college should not go in. We should show solidarity with those losing their jobs. Students in other colleges, all through the UK should support this. The unions need to support all the colleges. It should not be about whether a college is “profitable”.
A lot of these cuts are directed at ESOL provision. Is ESOL important?
My English used to be bad, I’m still trying. I did ESOL in Waltham Forest and then in the Idea Store in Whitechapel. It is very important for me, it is very important for everybody. Some people think they speak good English but they don’t, the grammar is difficult. English is a useful language, if you want a job then you need to learn English. They cut the classes because they think it is for the poor class. People have good ideas, but they need support and education.
Dawn Guilfoyle was meant to be enrolling on the Pathways to Nursing Course, but she didn’t and spent her morning persuading other students not to enrol. Last year she took the Literacy Level 2 course at Tower Hamlets.
Why haven’t you enrolled today?
I did it in support of our staff. It is appalling how they have been treated. And to try and stop all the cuts. They just spent £40,000 at Tower Hamlets College on an air stewarding course, on buying a model aeroplane! That was £40,000 for nothing. It could have been spent on jobs. Mr Farley (the college principal) is trying to make students pay for courses. The likes of us on benefits can’t pay fees; that is why we come to this college.
Why are the cuts happening?
Mr Farley says it is a lack of funding. This is complete rubbish, we need to keep the staff in jobs.
What would you to say to other students to persuade them to do what you have?
Support the staff, if we work together there is nothing they can do. We need to defend the college for the future. This is one of very few colleges in Tower Hamlets. I have an 11 year old daughter and in five years she will be looking for a college. This is a good college, the staff are lovely, we need it.
What message would you like to give Mr Farley?
You are wrong in what you are doing! Re-think. Listen to the students and the staff, you need to keep the staff and stop what you are doing.