THEY might be young but the students at Mulwaree High School sent the Premier a loud, clear message last Thursday: they do not approve of cuts to the state’s education budget under any circumstances.
More than 400 pupils took part in a protest rally, organised by prefect Jakub Nabaglo. The youngster applied to the school’s executive to organise a demonstration and was granted permission by principal Martin Purcell.
Mr Purcell told the Post that while the school remained neutral on the matter he believed it was important to allow the students to expres their views. He saw it as an exercise in democracy and a chance for the teens to learn how to protest in a safe, responsible and effective manner.
Jakub and two fellow students – school captain Eloise Matthews and SRC vice president Taylor McMahon – spoke at the rally, and the principal said he was proud of what they accomplished.
He said they did a lot of research and spoke very well. All of the students in attendance were also very well behaved.
“I was impressed. I believe in student voice… (and) I think we have a very strong student leadership team here at Mulwaree, from Year 7 through to Year 12…” he said.
The young organiser insisted the rally was not politically motivated, at least not in the party political sense, and said it was about sending a message to the government that young people cared about their educations.
“The protest was a-political, it doesn’t matter if it is Labor or the Liberals cutting education budgets, what we’re saying is cutting education budgets in general is wrong,” Jakub said.
“(Public education) is in crisis.
The Gonski Report recommended an extra $5billion, at least, be given to public schools across Australia immediately to solve the worst of problems. So, that means about $1.6b is needed in NSW. Well the O’Farrell Government is cutting $1.7b!” While Jakub accepted that the state’s budget wasn’t in the best shape and that there was a need for some degree of fiscal conservatism, he didn’t believe education was the right place to start cutting.
“(Budget woes) is still not a good enough reason to cut $1.7b from public schools in NSW. I think no amount of savings necessary is going to justify that,” he said.
“The NSW Government recently found an extra $1b in the budget that turned out to be available to anything else because of accounting errors and they are still not going to reconsider education funding. I mean, we could reduce the cut by $1b. Instead of cutting $1.7b we could be cutting $0.7b but the government is still not going to reconsider it.
“I don’t think they should be cutting the budget at all and frankly I don’t think the economic argument even works. Sure, we are saving money in the short term but overall, in the future, we are going to be worse off. The economy of not only NSW but all of Australia is going to be worse off because students aren’t going to be as well educated.
“Education is very much needed to be successful. Education is what is going to bring Australia into the future, education is what is going to make us competitive in the global market place… “I believe everybody has the right to a quality education, whether you attend a private school or a public school, and if the government can’t provide the money for education to educate every single student then there is something really wrong with our society.”
Following the protest, Jakub plans to write a letter to Member for Goulburn Pru Goward informing her of the students’ views.