Sunday, 17 February 2013

The inaccessible education

Education is for the rich. I do not care how many times the government says that education is for everyone, or that education is accessible for everyone, the bare facts are that post secondary education in Ontario is for only two groups of people – those willing to put themselves into debt (sometimes in the tens of thousands) or for those that are upper middle to upper class in terms of finances.

Then there are the thousands of people in the middle like me. Those of us who aren't willing or able to go even further into debt than we are, those that are making barely enough to get by (or not get by) and are told all the time if we want to better ourselves, if we want to get a better job, to go back to school and get a better education. And how are we supposed to do that? By quitting the job that is feeding us and our children? Paying our mortgage? Paying all those other necessary bills? By reducing the hours that we desperately need in order to work and go to school? Well then who will make up those missing hours in terms of the money missing in our pay cheque that we need in order to survive at the moment?

Someone told me recently that I should just get OSAP (the government student loan program) in order to do the program I'd like to do. But OSAP is only available if you're going to go back to school full time. Oh, and if you're willing to go into more debt than you already are. I'm not. Between the car payment, the mortgage payment and the regular day to day bills, my meager pay cheque doesn't have any extras in it to pay back more loans. Yet I want to go back to school. I want to get a better education to get a better job to have a better life. Yet the cost of one, just one, course is over $600 just four the course. That doesn't include text books or any other costs. What's incredibly silly is the fact that in that course fee are things that I and others who pay only for the course and are doing it by distance education are also paying fees for things that we have nothing to do with. Student activity fees, for instance. Why am I paying “student activity fees” when I'm not even on campus, let alone participating in a student activity? I also don't understand why each course has to cost between $600 and $700 when while, yes, the professor (I'm guessing one of the professor's assistants) is marking my work but I'm not taking up a seat in a classroom and all the professor is doing is posting online his notes for the week – not the day, the week. Why does it cost so much?

So education is for the rich. It's for those that can afford to quit their jobs or only work part time and don't have to worry about things like keep a roof over their heads or feeding their children because they are not single-income households. Education, the key to living better because you make more money, the key to not having to worry so much on whether or not the mortgage payment is going to bounce or you can make the insurance payment this month, this education which we are told is accessible to everyone is, in fact, not. It's especially not if you're not able to go into more debt. And it's most especially not if you're living in the middle of no where and unable to just pick up and move.

I want more education, but what are supposed to be helpful bits of advice on how to do it – take out OSAP, get a bank loan, oh and the one I love – move, are less than helpful when I'm the only one paying the bills and moving is detrimental to my family, and unless I have a money tree in the backyard I don't exactly have an extra $800 (course fees + books) kicking around.

Honestly, it is not just me and furthering my education I worry about.  I look at what it cost when I first started (the entire tuition for the first semester as less than $900), and that one course cost nearly that amount now and I look at my kids and I wonder if there is any hope of them getting a good post secondary education unless they start their adult lives in debt or we win the lottery that we never play.

Education ends the cycle of poverty in the developing world. We all know that. But education in the developed world is just as unaccessible to lower-middle class families in Canada without the financial means to access it. I'm all for changing the world and bringing education to developing countries, but Canada needs to become more like some of those so-called “developing” countries like Egypt where post secondary education is accessible and free to all. Maybe for once we can take a page from their book so that all Canadians who wish to further themselves and better the lives of themselves and their children can do just that.

1 comment:

  1. Asalamu Alaikum

    I absolutely agree! I went to college when I just had two kids but I got OSAP..back then I wasn't Muslim so knew nothing about riba. I still have to pay that back and haven't because no one likes to hire hijabis...well back then. Now it seems to be getting better. My 3 kids though right now have worked part-time jobs to get their education. One lived at home. Another was married (she worked before she was married and saved up) and one worked before and now while she is in University. Your kids have hope to do it this way but for you I know the predicament. Its hard to believe that most countries both muslim and non-muslim have free education. We are ripped off in every way in Canada. as an aside we also have the highest cell phone bills. but I digress. Maybe we need an idle no more demonstration. A lot of people would join.