Education is a pathway to liberation.

Here we are, five years after starting my studies in the academy. Ninth semester of paper writing, group projects, quizzes, readings, exams, etc.

And yet here I am, 9:59PM on Thursday night, just getting a start on my assignment worth 25% of my final mark, due tomorrow at 8:30AM. And not only that, but I am doing anything I can - like writing on my blog - to distract me from the task at hand. I'm even interested in the topic I'm writing on. It's about Blind Sports Nova Scotia and it's capacity for community building. I love those things. But oh so sick of academia.

I feel like a cog in this institutional machine. I spend hours on end pounding away at the keyboard, strain my eyes staring at the fluorescent backlight of this computer screen. Then sometime next week or in the next few, I'll get a notification on a website that assigns a number to the quality of my work. I'll either smile or curse for a passing moment, and then it will be done.

I'm not saying that I'm utterly unfulfilled. I have gratitude for this opportunity I am privileged enough to have. Especially in light of yesterday's National Day of Action - yesterday I marched through the streets in solidarity with my comrades all across the country, my fellow students; many of whom are struggling to afford to eat, some of whom are $38,000 in debt thanks to the pursuit of higher education, and many of whom are suffering from mental health issues because of the demands of tying to juggle two part-time jobs while keeping up with their coursework. These are the reasons we march.

Tuition Fee Increases 
(all data taken from the Canadian Federation of Students website:
Cuts to public funding for postsecondary education by the Canadian government has resulted in dramatic tuition fee increases. Tuition fees in Canada have increased by more than 137 per cent since 1990. In justification of these increases, both governments and education institutions have conspired to build a narrative that post-secondary education is a privilege and a personal benefit. We know better than this. We know that this user-fee model of education benefits only the affluent. The catastrophic cost of post-secondary education is pushing away students from lower-income families from accessing higher education and skills training.

Student Debt 
With rising tuition fees forcing no other choice for students to rely on loan-based financial assistance, student debt is at record high levels. The cumulative amount owed to the Canada Student Loan program today is over $19 billion and is increasing at a rate of almost a million dollars per day! With the average education-related debt at $28,000 for graduates from an undergraduate program, it is the lowest-income students who end up paying the most for their education as they must repay both tuition fees as well as the accumulated interest on their loans. These drastic levels of debt impact the life decisions graduates will make for years to come, like starting a family, buying a house, etc. which are all things that will stimulate our economy.

Marching Down Spring Garden Road
Photo Cred: Patrick Fulgencio

Women Warriors of the Nova Scotia Student Movement
Photo Cred: Patrick Fulgencio

Yesterday we marched to demand for universal access to education, education justice, and public education. Universal access, meaning that it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from; each and every person would have access to higher education and skills training without barriers. Education justice, because the students who are being priced out of post-secondary are disproportionately racialized, Indigenous, queer, people of low-income families, and people with disabilities. That is not right, and our education system must not perpetuate the marginalization of these communities. And lastly, public education because education benefits society as a whole. Education stimulates economies.

What is so inspiring about the student movement is that women are at the forefront - especially trans women, black women, and radicalized women. Also in the forefront are our Indigenous brothers and sisters, drumming away as we march down unceded and unsurrendered Mi'kmaq territory.

The amazing chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, Bilan Arte, says:
"We need a post-secondary education system that dismantles barriers instead of building them, A crucial first step is the fight for free education."  

Education is a pathway to liberation.

And so, here I am, now 10:44PM with that assignment still due tomorrow at 8:30AM, with such polarizing feelings. I value this education so tremendously, and yet I am doing everything in my power to avoid the research required to write this paper. Hmmm.. our minds are hard to understand.


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