The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted many problems in our society that we, as a student union, have been alarming politics for years. For the past two years, FEF has fought against student poverty; it’s the number one priority.
Why? The numbers speak for themselves. In the French-speaking part of Belgium, it is 80,000 students have difficulties paying for their studies. With the pandemic, the situation didn’t get better; one of our latest surveys shows that a third of students have more difficulties this year than last year to pay for their studies.
Making higher studies more accessible is a big challenge. But also crucial if we want to make our society better and more equal.
During the past two years, our union has made it a priority to make changes in higher education. Still, our minister of higher education wasn’t willing to make structural changes to improve the lives of thousands of students. So we took a lot of action to make changes: more than 15,000 petitions were signed, 48.000.000 steps were made during an online event and six weeks of mobilisation where 200 students came each week.
Unfortunately, our minister didn’t respond well to our actions and closed the discussion by blocking us on her Facebook page. We had to strike hard to make changes, so we decided to occupy the government. On the fifth of May 2021, 50 students arrived a 9 a.m. sat on the ground asking to meet our minister. We were quickly blocked inside by the police, and the students who wanted to join us started to gather on the place upfront. At the end of the day, four students were authorised to sleep in the government for the first time, and a meeting was appointed for the next day.
At the end of this occupation, we finally engagements with our minister. She gave us a calendar with structural changes in the fight against student precariousness. This is a significant first step in the fight!
Now we must make sure that the promises are kept and keep fighting to make our education accessible for all.