The Class of Covid 2020

‘Oh, the virus is spreading because of the students, it’s all their fault’.

It’s all well and good putting the blame on students and slandering their actions, but has anyone actually stopped to think about how it feels to be one of these ‘hooligans’ during this pandemic?

We’re nearing the end of 2020, and it feels like we’ve fast-forward through the decade, compressing years’ worth of chaos into one monstrous year, whilst cautiously acknowledging that it could just all combust at any given moment. So yes, understandably we’re frustrated, but let’s not take it out on the youth.

Sure, I can’t sit looking down on people telling them that us mere students have been perfect, some have been far from this, but they’re hardly the detrimental driving force behind the Covid catastrophe.

I know some have been arguably reckless and selfish, with gatherings and raves being organised and packed to the masses, but it isn’t fair to put it all on us.

Some isolate when they’re told. Some track and trace. Some wear their masks. And some, god forbid, even keep their distance from others. Yet we’ve all been generalised under one giant adolescent bubble.

There are many things that could’ve been done differently with the handling of the virus.

Amongst all the chaos there have been some wrong decisions made and not all choices have been good, but the students aren’t to blame for this pandemic.

We are simply trying to go about navigating our way through these uncertain times like everyone else, whilst continuing our learning and retaining some form of social interaction with others.

Our £9k a year courses aren’t being refunded or reduced (at time of writing, one can remain a hopeful optimist that this will have changed a few months down the line…), yet we are expected to keep on learning through a mirage of online classes,  going square-eyed through endless Zooms, a hardly fair replacement I would argue.

So what’s being done about tuition fees?

Now MP’s did meet on Monday 16 November 2020 to debate the mounting petitions relating to university tuition fees that had been signed thousands of times.

Petitions involved cases such as: ‘lower university tuition fees for students until online teaching ends’ and ‘require universities to partially refund tuition fees for 20/21 due to covid-19’.

Surprise surprise, there was no unanimous agreement on, well, anything, so the confusion remains. Well, some Tory MPs did say that all students who got locked down should get an automatic refund, but that does not address the issue for everyone, and is a fairly lacking statement.

But of course, why would the government want to tackle the topic of fee refunds?? God forbid! But surely there could be some better support and clarity provided to us club-deprived, Wetherspoons-dependant youths?

Even a letter from good old Bojo giving us a better insight on what the general plan on finance is for us would be nice. Instead, we’ve been relatively left in the dark when it comes to this matter.

Could it also not be argued that universities are saving some money? Less electricity and facilities are being used for a start, which I imagine is a hefty cut in the annual spend?

Maybe this would have been better if students had just stayed home

I sometimes can’t help but wonder if sending a cohort of juveniles back to the populous dorms and shoddy student houses was a bad idea.

Don’t get me wrong, we all wanted to reclaim a piece of our freedom back after months of enforced family-time, I more than most, but was this seize of power too small a prize for an increase in Covid cases and a society turned against us?

If most of us are only physically in our uni’s once a week or maybe not even at all, then why was it not decreed that all students would just learn from home and not return to the densely populated halls and packed pubs? Oh right, because in doing so the companies who run the accommodations and student services would lose money and at no fault of their own fall into crisis due to a lack of government funding.

So, instead of ‘eat out to help out’, why didn’t we have support for ‘study at home to save lives’?

Some universities have provided the support needed for students’ mental wellbeing through free counselling sessions and online support, but others have neglected this crucial area, with some even claiming they can’t run their usual support services due to the pandemic.

Esther McVey, a former minister, spoke at the Monday 16th debate, and asked the question: “How were young students allowed to go back to university when universities did not have the capability to look after their students? Some of them have literally been locked up in student accommodation.”

So why were we allowed back?

The government have continuously claimed that they have put lives before the economy but forgive me if I struggle to agree with this empty sentiment. If this was the case, why were we lured into a false sense of hope that uni’s would ensure we had a near-normal experience and be looked after, only to be bitterly disappointed? Ah…

Students have been the guinea pigs of an experiment led by the government. An attempt at normality has been overshadowed by the tragedy of the year.

The logic in hindsight may have been that we may have a lesser chance of getting very ill from Covid, but that’s not applicable for all, and is an extremely risky and unfair to assume. Our lives matter too.

Right, where was I going with this?

Oh yeah. It’s easy to sit back and rant about students causing a raucous in society whilst eating your 100th slice of banana bread, but before you turn it all on us, stop and think.

This year hasn’t been easy or joyous for any of us anywhere (unless you’re Jeff Bezos perhaps), so why don’t we take a leaf out of this years’ lessons and treat everyone with a little more kindness? I urge you to take out your own frustrations in a Joe Wicks workout, not at the students.

 

Words by Gabriela Page

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