By Sean Malloy
TAFE student strikes have been organised for October 16 in all states except NSW and October 24 in NSW. Students are alarmed at the effects of government cuts to funding and increased enrolments.
"People who are on Job Search or Newstart are being asked to train as part of the Newstart agreement; one of the places they are recommended to train at is TAFE", said Meg-Aislinn Sweeny, a welfare student at Sydney TAFE and a member of the Welfare Students Association.
She added that overcrowding in universities is creating another layer of people competing for TAFE places. "No extra money is being put into addressing the overcrowding in universities.
"What the university administrations are going to do is increase the matriculation requirements to reduce enrolment applications.
"This means people will go and do a year at TAFE and then apply at the end of the year to attend university."
NSW TAFE enrolments were up this year by 20%. In 1992 approximately 145,000 applicants will be turned away from TAFEs nationally.
Sweeny says, "The state budget is grossly inadequate for TAFE.
We've got dangerous lighting that leaks caustic liquid on the floors and eats away the carpet. We've got buildings which aren't air-conditioned or properly ventilated where woodwork or metalwork is going on."
Administrative charges are another deterrent to those who wish to study at TAFE.
"It's supposed to be free education. But you can't have an education without paying an administration fee, such as the $430 associate diploma charge, plus paying for required texts and materials.
"They don't actually charge you for your education; they charge you for everything around it."
The conditions at TAFE, the cost of education and the lack of jobs to look forward to have led to anger and students organising to defend their education.
"So far the student association at Sydney TAFE has done nothing. It sat back and watched our college counsellors get redundancy packages, it sat back and watched teachers get a 20% work increase with a 3% wage rise, and it sat back and saw its own unit get redundancy packages."
The administration attempts to impede those who are politically active. "I am concerned about the amount of pressure that's put on people active in TAFE against the Greiner government's policies, creases in teaching time.
"We've got security guards who, unless you've got official sanction, remove any publication distributed by students.
"You can't leaflet, you can't stick up posters and leave them, you can't leave broadsheets around because security comes around and cleans up immediately after you. So students just don't get information.
"One student who put out a newsletter criticising the Sydney TAFE administration and the student association was suspended for a week."