With the SRC and Honi elections looming the campus is once again filled with coloured tshirts and slogans and it got me thinking of some lessons I leanred from the USU election in semester one.
In the rush and flurry of election day on campus I usually try to give a little of my time to that sub-class of students: the election campaigners. Yes I’m one of those fools who give fuel to their campaigning by allowing them to walk by my side on the way to class and to champion their candidate’s set of policies. I usually find that in their surprise at finding someone willing to give them an ear most of the campaigners are struck suddenly tongue tied as they scramble to remember their 60 second spiel. No matter, I’m keen to make my free drink voucher, sorry my vote, as informed as a 60 second spiel can make it.
But eariler this year one of the candidates policies actually made me stop and think. A young man named Harry, sporting a green shirt and campaigning for Jeremy Elphick mentioned, almost as an aside, that his candidate was keen to make child care more accessable to students who needed it most on campus. Having already done some superficial research into the candidates I was caught by surprise because I did not recall having read this as one of Elphick’s policies. I immediately gave ear.
Harry’s by-the-by comment made me stop and wonder about the child care options for young parents on campus. A quick google showed me that the Camperdown/Darlington campus had four child care centres, and Cumberland had one, but none of the other campuses of the University of Sydney had any child care services associated with the university.
These centres were all responsible for long day care services, they did not provide services to mothers who may require occasional care, though the university of Sydney website did provide links to services in the area which did provide this care.
And while the cost of the child care centres is competitive with child care prices around Sydney the prices are, to my mind, simply unaffordable for a full time student. Three of the five child care centres offered discounts for access card holders but these discounts were as little as $2 a day for children ages 3-6 and $4 a day for children from 0-3.
If choice is what our society advocates then at least woman should be provided with a real choice. If a student becomes pregnant while studying at the university of Sydney and wishes to parent her child I would like to see that she is able to look after and care for her child while at the same time is able to continue her studies.
To me that is a real union policy that I would vote for.
That would be something I would be more than willing to give up my 15% discount on coffee for.
Supporting mothers on campus to be able to complete their studies is, however, not just something that we should expect our unions to do for us. Day to day we all have a responsibility to support young mothers in our private actions and most of all in our attitudes.
Information on the Child care centres connected with the university of Sydney can be found here: http://sydney.edu.au/stuserv/child_care/centres.shtml