Activists at the University of Manchester Painted Over the Verses of a Poem by Rudyard Kipling Claiming the Poet was a Racist

Here Youth Time Magazine publishes three of the most interesting and informative youth related news items of the past week. Our weekly news roundup is published every Monday and Friday and contains just some of the most important developments in the world of global youth. Follow, like and submit comments on Facebook and other Youth Time media.


Students love Australia

International students are flocking to Australia in record numbers, and the country may soon be the second most popular destination in the world, after the United States. New research from UCL indicates that Australia has probably knocked the UK out of second place as its institutions gain prestige and the avalanche of Chinese students heading overseas continues to grow.

As recently as 2015 the UK attracted around 130,000 more foreign students per year than Australia. By 2018, UCL’s research indicates the tables had turned, though the exact figures are yet to be confirmed.  UNESCO stats on Chinese and Indian students support UCL’s findings. In the 2015/16 academic year 112,000 Chinese and 45,000 Indians went to Australia, compared to 92,000 and 18,000 respectively for the UK. The same year 291,000 Chinese students went to the United States.  

“UK higher education is still highly valued internationally, but the government has held down the growth of international student numbers for five years, by limiting new student numbers and post-study work visas,” says Prof Simon Marginson – author of the report. He noted that Australia is promoted itself globally as a safe, English-speaking destination with quality universities. By contrast, the UK has antagonised Indian students by tightening rules on immigration,, while uncertainty continues to surround the post-Brexit landscape.   

Racism and poetry

Activists at the University of Manchester painted over the verses of a poem by Rudyard Kipling which was on the walls of the student union. They claim that the author was a racist who used poetry to justify Britain’s colonial presence in India over a century ago. His poem ‘If’ was written in 1895 and chosen by the university to go up on the walls of its new union. The students painted it over and replaced it with Still I Rise – a 1978 poem by an American civil rights activist.

The stunt has hit headlines in the UK where Kipling has long been considered one of the most iconic poets of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Kipling was born in Mumbai in 1865 and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature aged just 42.  Perhaps his most controversial poem – The White Man’s Burden – encouraged the US to take control of the Philippines to improve the lot of the common people. Later critics have accused him of racism and imperialistic tendencies, while most scholars acknowledge his literary talent.

Sara Khan, a representative from the student union, argued students should have been asked which poem would be chosen to represent them. “It is deeply inappropriate to promote the work of Kipling in our SU, which is named after prominent South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko”, she argued. Khan and her colleagues have been criticised for an over the top reaction and failing to appreciate that most authors of previous eras held views that woud be extremely unpopular today. 

The National Student Money Survey found that 78% of students based in the UK struggle financially

Medical trials and sex work are being used by around one in ten young students to make ends meet, new research shows. The National Student Money Survey found that 78% of students based in the UK struggle financially.  Around 76% have part-time jobs to help support their studies. While many work in bars, retail and customer service, an estimated 11% are involved in various methods of prostitution and gambling.

These could be as innocuous as nude modelling or medical trials, or as dodgy as performing on webcams or finding ‘sugar daddies’ to fund their rent and food bills. Some outlandish examples provided in the survey include one male student paid to send photos of his feet after an admirer saw them on Instagram, and a female student offered money by a stranger to abuse him online.  Jake Butler, an expert at Save the Student which conducted the poll, said that students getting involved in sex work or other arrangements was a part of life and urged universities to   provide support and create spaces in which students feel safe accessing advice, to ensure (they) can practice their work safely.”

Photo: Shutterstock

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