Caring for those who care
Last week I had the chance to meet a fair number of students from the University of Bradford School of Health, and my girlfriend a whole lot more (how many Union hacks meet 600 of their students in 4 hours, even if it is a succession of lecture shouts!). Their campus is separate from the main one, and I have hardly made it up there, usually too late in the afternoon to meet anyone. There’s no excuse for my lack of previous contact with those students, especially given the number of issues they managed to raise during the time I was there.
Many of the nursing students are mature students with children, it turns out. I was horrified to learn that these students don’t receive a penny more in their NHS study bursary for having children. Anyone can do the maths and realise that’s nonsense. Its one thing for a young single student to pay halls rent from their bursary, but another for a parent to pay rent on a 2 bedroom house for them and their two children (and what happened to the western one-room-per-over-10 deal?).
Lets think about nursing for a while. The students face up to 30 hours of lectures a week, with 20 hours of ‘private study’ 24 weeks of the year, followed by 24 weeks of placement. They get 4 weeks holiday, not 22 weeks vacation. Once qualified they will work long hours and odd shift patterns, and if they have kids, the childcare costs will eat into their salaries big time.
These students are volunteering years of service, for which they will be paid very little compared to the actual work they will put in, and yet they receive less than what they need to live on. Nursing in particular is not a profession, nor a study course, that allows for much else. These are people who won’t find the time to go protest against injustices, despite the fact they themselves are dealt injustice. Instead they’re the ones providing the basic care we take for granted. They may not make a difference politically, but they make it practically.
Most of the students at the School of Health lack the time to get involved in Union Council or to attend meetings, or even to come down to main campus to contact the Union. It’s no wonder they managed just a 1% turnout in the cross-campus ballot on Thursday if the rest of the time the Union never reaches them. The ‘help yourself’ dogma of ’empowerment’ rings hollow when these are people who haven’t the time to represent themselves as they go about life caring for others. Perhaps its time we stood up for them as a way of saying thanks.