students being desciminated - william watches on

No one goes to University to be locked in a tiny flat through no fault of their own, And NO ONE goes to university to have their HUMAN RIGHTS ignored.

I may be older than most students but the fact is that until December, I am still technically one! During my time at University, I served as a class rep (multiple times) and was an (elected) Trustee of the student union, so I get annoyed when students are treated unfairly. The absolute shambles of the last week has taken my anger at government to new, exotic levels.

ON Sundays Sophie Ridge Show, Oliver Dowden was asked about the unfair situation students are currently facing. In response, Dowden told them if they dont follow the rules they would not get home for Christmas.

You would be right to ask ‘why the f**k is the Secretary for Media and culture telling students to behave’; Sadly, I have no answer for this.

You would also be right if you were shouting “its not the student’s fault” at the top of your voice.

The UK’s ‘Minister for Universities is Michelle Donelan; It should be her or her invisible boss Gavin Williamson who is grilled by media; It should be the dad’s army cast-off explaining to students why they are being stripped of their freedoms, not Dowden.

The most damning stories I have heard so far come from Manchester. There, some students are not allowed to leave their buildings. They can’t go to the shops, they can’t exercise, and most damning of all, they have been told they can’t even go for a COVID-19 test – or they won’t be allowed back into their flats!

No matter what way you look at the situation facing students, or what spin you put on it, It’s just not fair. Students ARE people, and they did not travel across the country to be treated worse than other people.

Put yourself the shoes of a 2020 fresher. You are 18 and have just left high school. Due to COVID-19, you were awarded an unfairly low computer assessed grade which you had to appeal at the last minute to secure your university place.

You pack your life up and travel 100’s of miles to your new home only to be told you must self-isolate for weeks regardless of whether you have Coronavirus or not.

The issue is amplified by the trend of mass occupancy in student accommodation. When you have multiple people living in a small flat; in a building that contains hundreds of small flats, one positive case can quickly spread.

What is most concerning is that students are being faced with are stricter rules than the government’s lockdown rules to such an extent where it is maybe infringing on their human rights!

The Human Rights Act 1998 set in place 14 ‘articles’ to protect the rights and freedoms of people living in the United Kingdom. The forced student self-isolation could be infringing on these rights.

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Article 14: Protection from discrimination

Discrimination occurs when you are treated less favourably than another person in a similar situation and this treatment cannot be objectively and reasonably justified. Discrimination can also occur if you are disadvantaged by being treated the same as another person when your circumstances are different.

Article 14 states “Discrimination occurs when you are treated less favourably than another person in a similar situation and this treatment cannot be objectively and reasonably justified”; and in this situation, it seems easy to demonstrate that students are being discriminated.

For instance, a university in Manchester (which we won’t name) is forcing students to remain in their buildings, placing security guards on the gates to control people going in or out. Students have been told that they are only allowed out of the building to get medical attention. They are not allowed to go food shopping, to do their laundry, exercise or even to get themselves a test for Coronavirus.

The discrimination is stark. While Manchester is currently under ‘local lockdown’ no one in manchester, or anywhere else in the UK is being treated as harshly as the students. People in Manchester can go out of their homes without being monitored by security guards; they can go to the shops if needed, they can get a COVID-19 test if needed, and most importantly they can get some exercise if they want; a basic human right!

The students are being treated differently solely because they are students. It can be argued that the students might have COVID-19; Although in reality, it is impossible to know without testing, which they are struggling to get.

This is discrimination.

Article 5: Right to liberty and security

Focuses on protecting individuals’ freedom from unreasonable detention, as opposed to protecting personal safety.

You have a right to your personal freedom. This means you must not be imprisoned or detained without good reason.

We all have a right to be free, and while COVID-19 has put some restrictions on what we can do in and around society, the enshrined right of personal freedom has for the most been protected. While it is right those who tested positive for COVID-19 self-isolate to protect those around them; It is unfair to treat large groups of people as infectious simply because ‘they are students’.

The problem here is not that people with Coronavirus have to self-isolate. The problem is that people are being indiscriminately told to stay in their flats and self-isolate or they will be penalised.

Students are being detained in their accommodation because of an assumption, not because of proven reality. Students are being forced to stay in their home because they MIGHT have been in contact with someone – who may have been in contact with someone else – who might have Coronavirus; But no one can get tested to see if they actually have the virus.

Point the finger in the Right direction!

We need to take that finger of blame and make sure it is pointing in the right direction. It’s easy to blame the universities for taking these draconian measures but the reality is that universities have no real way of supporting students the way governments seem to think they should.

Gavin Williamson arriving for a meeting with the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Downing Street, London. - Modified by Voice Britannia

Universities are not part of the state and they are not providers for disaster relief. Universities are commercial entities that exist to teach people new skills while making a profit. Restricting the movements of people and protecting the nation from COVID-19 is the duty of the state, NOT universities.

The finger of blame should point at the man who has been convenient silent, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

For the second, third or maybe even fourth time during this pandemic, Gavin Williamson has taken an avoidable situation and led it by the hand into disaster.

In the words of the mythical Malcolm Tucker, he is the ‘coffee machine’, from bean to cup he f*ck’s up.

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Students should never have been told to return to physical classes this semester, it was a risk that should have been avoided.

The situation government has put universities into is reminiscent of governments non-committal guidence to the hospitality industry during the first wave. Government has told universities they should be open and holding classes; Which forces them to open doors and try to hold classes, or suffer massive financial losses.

Universities are one of the few industries that can operate remotely; I know this as I completed the last semester of my degree this way. It was hard but it was doable.

We know it is a risk for people to congregate and we know adults are more susceptible to COVID-19. We knew in August that the second Coronavirus wave was growing, yet government allowed schools, collages and universities to reopen.

This is one of governments biggest Coronavirus failures yet; and absolutely the biggest failure of Gavin Williamson, Michelle Donelan and every political appointment within the Department of Education.

This time, the conservative government’s inability to plan for the near future has put thousands of people at risk; but their failure had led to a huge increase in COVID-19 cases, and thousands of people being unfairly detained, with their basic human rights denied.

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