This year, the opening of the academic year takes place under exceptional circumstances. Instead of exchanging summer tales over coffee at the campus with friends whom we have not seen since last term, we are facing distance learning and telecommuting. This requires flexibility from all parties. In these times, it is very important to ensure high-quality distance learning and sufficient educational resources, as the pandemic has put a great strain on students.
We all react differently to change and that is why we must show solidarity. I hope that everyone will remember to stay safe when taking part in student events for as long as we are living through this pandemic. Get creative so that all students get to enjoy student life. Create new ways and modify the old ones to enjoy events safely. Leave no one behind. Keep in touch with your friends. Many are at risk of social exclusion.
Old problems have not disappeared. Our students have to cope with the stress of graduating, and jobs are not guaranteed after graduation. Constant fluctuations in the student income level in the past decade have not helped either. Students are also the only ones forced to borrow money to secure their livelihoods. Students coming from lower-income backgrounds in particular are opposed to taking a loan, having little faith in their post-graduation repayment ability. Many students struggle to make ends meet and stress over finding a job after graduation.
The Finnish education system excels in offering equal opportunities. As students come from varied backgrounds, personal guidance is needed. Expanding and safeguarding guidance and counselling services is an excellent way of improving student well-being. These services allow students to focus on their studies and graduate quickly, resolving worries about their courses and livelihood. It is vital to safeguard student guidance and counselling. This is done by increasing resources for guidance and counselling services, and staff who have time to focus on student guidance.
An alarming number of young people end up on a disability pension due to lack of support. There is much to be done and we need to start somewhere. The university community can make a difference in this societal problem. It is time to start amongst our own ranks. Adequate resources must be targeted at guidance and counselling, so that everyone needing support has access to such services. Usually, university studies take place on the eve of adulthood, and the years play a decisive role in shaping the future of students. We must engage students to their studies now and in future. At their best, studies can offer professional growth and a communal experience that carries people through difficult times. Take care of each other. Call a friend. Go for a run together. Play on the computer together. In spite of everything, I hope that all members of our university community get to enjoy a productive and joyful academic year. In these times, our focus must be on communality and well-being.
Now is the time for actions.