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An open letter to all students: Students Matter

An open letter to all students

Ki ngā tauira katoa, pīki mai kake mai haere mai, whakamahi tou reo,

Students Matter

Students have a critical role to play in the outcome of the General Election. There are 417,516 students in New Zealand and we make up 14% of the total number of voters. We have the collective power to decide who is leading the next Government. Every single one of our votes counts.

The election started two weeks ago and closes at 7.00pm tomorrow, as of yesterday there were alreadyover 557,174 votes cast and many more students are pledging to vote today and tomorrow. If the turnout is similar to the last election we have already elected 29 Members of Parliament.

The election is unusually early this year and for the first time ever we have had advanced voting booths located at universities and polytechnics. Teams of student volunteers have been working tirelessly to encourage their friends and wider networks to vote. There is no excuse for not voting.

We want students to be making an informed decision, since all prospective, current or recent students will be affected by the outcome of the election. Students are the only sector in society which is expected to borrow to pay their most basic living costs. For your own sake, and for the sake of your friends please read our voting guide and vote for political parties with good student support policy. They can be found on our website here: http://bit.ly/StudentVotingGuide

The government has made a succession of cuts to student allowances and student loans and they’re clearly no longer working for students. One in 6 students is better of rejecting their student allowancesince they can get more money from WINZ. Accommodation support for students has not been adjusted since 2001 despite aggressive rent increases. Sixty percent of students are afraid of the amount of debt they will be in, and how it will affect the rest of their lives. With recent cuts to postgraduate allowances and further age-based restrictions to allowances many people are locked out of education. Thousands of students are failing not because they don’t have the talent, but because they can’t afford to demonstrate their ability. These people need our help.

Student poverty isn’t a rite of passage, or something that should be romanticised. There is nothing noble about the acute anxiety born out of desperation. No student should go hungry or choose between going to the doctor or paying for a warm flat. We as a society can do better.

I have a vision of an education system that works for students. An education system which recognises that students are experts at their own learning. It’s an education system with a rich student culture which sees itself as the critic and social conscious of New Zealand. A public education system which works in partnership with its community to ensure no person is out of education, training or work.

Now is our moment to be change agents. We are many, but we are one. Instead of cutting our lunch, we need to be growing the pie. The more doctors, artists, philosophers and nurses we have, the more vibrant our society will be.

Many political parties have heard our collective voice and have developed good and thoughtful policy which is good for students and good for New Zealand, we must give them our support tomorrow.

In service,

Daniel Haines
New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations President


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