Radical education change needed
The government’s plan to raise the school leaving age from 16 to 18 is, at first glance, a perfectly reasonable proposal.
But any government serious about such a measure would have to consider why half of 16 year olds, all of who are in theory able to stay in education, choose to leave at the earliest opportunity.
Young people from low income families are far more likely to leave school at 16, as a result of economic pressure.
They leave to bring another wage into the house, or because their parents are no longer able to support them.
It is also the case that the education system itself alienates students early on.
Regular and excessive examination, setting and streaming, forcing students to choose between academic and vocational education (at the age of 14 according to the latest plans) does as much damage to education as poverty.
Without addressing these problems, the goverment will be forced to coerce young people like myself into staying in education. Clearly some more radical changes are needed.
These must be more concerned with the focus and content of compulsory education than with its duration.
Iain Taylor, South East London
The French left’s fight
Most of the British coverage of the French presidential elections has focused on the campaigns of Socialist Party candidate Segolene Royal and the right winger Nicolas Sarkozy. They are both committed to continuing neoliberal policies.
Meanwhile, a very different campaign is taking place for Olivier Besancenot, the candidate for the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire (LCR). The LCR’s slogan is “Our lives are worth more than their profits.”
Besancenot has taken two month’s unpaid leave from his job as a postal worker to speak at dozens of meetings around France. The campaign has struck a chord with people and is reaching out to a new audience.
Some 500 people turned up to an LCR election meeting in the town of Valence – where the LCR don’t even have a branch.
A quarter of those at the meeting were young people and many were from the suburbs – where Muslims, black people and the poor predominantly live.
There have been big LCR meetings everywhere. They include 1,600 in Nantes, 1,000 in Metz, 600 in Dijon, 700 in Reims, 700 in Le Mans. They have captured the spirit of resistance that defeated the CPE employment law last year.
Besancenot has also been to factories to meet with workers including striking Citroen car workers.
Supporters in Paris organised a gig which brought together 1,800 people for a lively night of music and politics.
Besancenot has challenged the policies of the mainstream that see the rich getting richer.
He says, “France is the fifth most powerful economic power in the world. It is possible to increase salaries, to develop social protection, and public services. We just need to do what the bosses have done for more than 30 years, but the other way round.”
Marie Covillaud, by email
See Tham Sarki off in style
The sad news is that Tham Sarki, a Nepalese asylum seeker, will be returning to Nepal towards the end of April.
Thankfully he will not be waiting in a detention centre and escorted on to a plane by home office security as the government had wished in February 2003.
Tham was to be returned to the war from which he had fled.
The conflict in Nepal at that time was seeing the killings, summary executions and “disappearances” of people that might have had any connection with the Maoist resistance to the state.
Tham was not forcibly returned because he fought for his right to stay in Britain.
He sought the help of anti-deportation campaigners, fellow students, trade unionists and political movements, including Stop the War.
Our campaign has not won Tham the right to stay here. But it stopped him being returned when it was not safe for him to set foot inside Nepal.
For a long time Tham was only in receipt of financial support from individuals in the campaign, who gave him a place to stay and made sure he could eat, since the home office stopped his support payments.
He’s always returned those favours in kind though, in anyway that he could.
Now, King Gyanendra has been pushed to one side and the Maoists are at the heart of the peace process and hopefully of a more democratic society. The asylum appeal process has worn Tham’s patience.
Tham also misses his family dearly and feels that it is time that he was reunited with them.
We would like to wish Tham all the best and send him off in style. We also need to pay the legal team and other related costs.
The Tham Sarki Must Stay Campaign will be holding a farewell benefit from 6pm on Saturday 14 April at the Telegraph Hill Centre, Kitto Road, New Cross in south London, SE14.
Tickets are £15/£10 and can be booked by emailing [email protected]
Pat Carmody, Tham Must Stay Campaign
Ads threat to BBC
BBC staff are campaigning against a plan to put adverts on the international edition of the BBC News website in the hope of cashing in on the website’s millions of overseas users.
The ads won’t just affect those abroad. Problems with the technology mean that many British licence fee payers will end up seeing ads. As both home and overseas readers get the same news content, they will all be affected by the introduction of commercial pressures.
The BBC News website is a rich information resource. Almost uniquely, it provides funding solely according to editorial need.
Few commercial news providers cover Africa in the same depth because African users don’t have the same purchasing power as Americans and so are less attractive to advertisers.
In addition, the direct funding of the BBC through the licence fee means it has a duty to be accountable to readers – editors respond personally to comments and complaints.
We fear opening the door to advertisers will dilute our coverage and accountability – and could spell the beginning of the end of a publicly funded BBC.
Hundreds of journalists have signed an internal petition against the scheme, but we need your help. A public petition has been opened on the Downing Street website at: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/NoBBCadverts
Please add your name and support our campaign.
Journalist, BBC News, by email
Debates at TUC women’s meeting
The recent women’s TUC conference proved to be one of the most contentious in the last few years.
This was due to the general council’s decision to cut funding for children of school age who attend TUC conferences with parents who are delegates.
Delegates from a number of unions moved a motion condemning the policy. But delegates from the Unison and Nasuwt unions supported the general council.
Nasuwt argued that children should not be removed from school during term time. Unison said that it was up to individual unions to fund childcare arrangement.
A motion criticising the general council was chosen to go to the TUC conference.
The Middle East also provided a hot topic of debate. The FBU firefighters’ union questioned a statement put forward by the General Federation of Iraqi Workers which condemned terrorism in Iraq without mentioning the US and British occupation.
A motion was passed which attacked US, British and Israeli foreign policy, which has led to the deaths of thousands of children in the Middle East.
Anna Owens, PCS union delegate (pc)
Blogging for a free world
Christian Hogsbjerg’s portrayal of blogging as a modern form of pamphleteering (Virtual resistance, 31 March) is certainly true. I’ve often relied on socialist blogs, notably Lenin’s Tomb, for analysis of unfolding events.
Having a blog is great for improving writing skills, which often helps to clarify one’s politics. Political clarity builds confidence – something definitely required to be an effective socialist.
However, socialist bloggers have to root themselves in the real world. It can be tempting to slip into the armchair politics of cyberspace and get embroiled in endless debates with virtual nobodies.
We need to be active in the workplaces, schools and streets.
Doug Nesbitt, Ottawa, Canada
India needs jobs more
Socialist Worker’s report (Reports round-up, 31 March) on the ballot of 6,000 CWU union members in BT Global Services over an outsourcing deal failed to mention an important point.
One of the key aspects of the deal is the outsourcing of 650 jobs to India. While no one likes to see British workers losing their jobs surely Indian people need work more than a wealthy Britain of almost full employment.
The Central London CWU branch is campaigning against the deal. But how can it do this without resorting to a crude attack on Indian workers?
Abigail Hartley, Brighton
He made a big contribution
I was very sad to read of the death of Peter Bain (obituary, 31 March).
In 1965 I was briefly editor of Labour Worker, the forerunner of Socialist Worker.
We produced a fortnightly paper with no office and no full-timers.
This was only possible because we had a dedicated team of correspondents in various parts of the country.
Peter was one of our main Glasgow correspondents. He was totally reliable. His pieces always arrived on time through the post – there was no fax or email then.
They were always in beautifully clear handwriting and required very little editing. Peter was only 23 or 24 at the time, but he showed a remarkable grasp of the Glasgow labour movement.
He was a genuine worker-intellectual. Without Peter and comrades like him, Socialist Worker and the SWP would not exist today.
Ian Birchall, North London
Thank you for your presence
I’m a fourth year medical student at SGUL medical school. I was on the march against the Medical Training Application Service last month when I met one of your representatives.
I just wanted to say thank you for being there. Even though I’m sure you guys didn’t get many recruits that day I was really pleased to see you.
Sorry for the delay – I had exams! Good luck guys, I love the website and the articles.
Sarah Simms, by email
History will not be kind
Is there no way that Mr Blair can be restrained, short of a straitjacket, over Iran?
I feel that threats against Iran serve little purpose. I presume the intention is to inflame the situation and justify direct attacks on Iran.
Mr Blair cares little for people or democracy. Waxing on about the welfare of captured servicemen is a lie.
Mr Blair may hope that history will be kind to him but I do not think that this will prove to be the case. As we sink into the mire and further civil liberties are taken away, I urge people to look at reality.
There is an increase in child poverty and a loss of affordable houses.
Patrick Cooper-Duffy, Southampton