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17 January 2020

A tribute to Nita Sanghera

Nita chairing launch of Charter for Jobs in parliament

Nita chairing launch of Charter for Jobs in parliament.

The untimely death of Nita Sanghera is a shock to us all. The UCU and the labour and trade union movement as a whole has been robbed of one of its most courageous fighters for justice.

Nita fizzed with energy and passion. Her sartorial elegance and smile matched her warm and outgoing personality. She filled a room with her presence and inspired all those around her. She was proud to have been elected as UCU’s first black president and even more so because she stood as a candidate from the FE sector.

Nita was relatively new to political activism and trade unionism. She left her career in the financial sector and went into FE.  She saw the FE sector as a crucial space for those who had so much potential which other educational institutions had failed to recognise. Nita was always coming up with ideas and looking for opportunities to develop a more progressive curriculum especially one that integrated the positive role of trade unionism.

In her short time as vice president she made her presence felt. She would often get frustrated with the internal workings of the union and angered with its slowness to act. Nita was determined to use her position, as president, not to stifle and suppress action but to inspire members to resist and fight back.

She campaigned tirelessly. She travelled around the UK never turning down an invitation to speak at a college or university. One of the last big tours she did was with the UCU sponsored Stand up to Racism campaign to halt the rise of the far right on the campuses. She was targeted by fascists through social media which made her even more determined to combat their attempts to infiltrate our colleges and universities.

When our members were taking action, she took to the picket lines and did all she could to raise solidarity with those who were taking action.

Last time I saw her speak was on a climate change demonstration in London. She was nervous about speaking because she felt that she did not know enough about the subject. She spent the whole week reading and preparing her speech in between doing other meetings around the country. On the day her speech was greeted with real enthusiasm.  Not only was she knowledgeable about the subject but she spoke with rage.

After her speech she was surrounded by people wanting to talk to her and ask for her contact details.

She told it like she saw it. This is why people loved Nita. She was a breath of fresh air. Her fire and anger cut through the superficial to expose the truth. The source of her rage and anger was her experience of injustice but she refused to become a victim of injustice. It is for this reason that so many were inspired by her.

The last campaign we worked on together was the UCU motion calling on the TUC to call a 30-minute stoppage in solidarity with the school climate strikers. She made sure that the idea was taken up by the other national officers of the union.

History is made through the collective action of working people but individuals do make a difference. In such a short time Nita made so much happen. She was proud of being a socialist and being a part of the organised left within the union.

I am angered and sad that I will not as the vice chair of the FE committee be able to work with her as president and see her continue to grow and effect change.

Her cruel death is a reminder we don’t have long on this planet. Let’s make sure that, in the time we do have, we do all we can to change it. For the whole of humanity. As Nita would say ‘no negative vibes only – positive ones’. Let’s finish the work she has helped to start.

Condolences and love to Nita’s family.

Sean Vernell UCU FE Vice- chair

 

 

5 comments

  1. Kyran Joughin said:

    Thank you for a beautiful tribute, Sean.
    And thank you to Nita, ever. RIP

    17 January 2020 at 2:56pm
  2. EMBASSY AHMED said:

    SORRY FOR THE LOSS

    18 January 2020 at 1:52pm
  3. Carol Cody said:

    Thank you Sean, Nita will be a loss to all those who knew her. Deepest sympathy to her family and friends.

    19 January 2020 at 5:39pm
  4. Tom Hickey said:

    A committed socialist, internationalist, and anti-racist, a feminist and an activist of the UCU Left committed to the trenchant defence of individual members as well as to the organisation of our union for the advancement of their collective conditions, her untimely death has deprived us in the UCU of what would have been an inspirational Presidency. As an internationalist and a socialist, she was deeply committed to the struggle for Palestine, both personally and politically. She was an ally of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) and of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). Her loss is not just a loss to the UCU but to the solidarity campaigns for justice in Palestine and across the world. She was an engaging individual as well as being a clear-thinking and strategic anti-racist and anti-colonialist. Even if we have our own private senses of bereavement from working with her or from hearing her moving addresses, we may nevertheless underestimate this loss for the movement as a whole at this critical juncture.

    Tom Hickey
    University of Brighton and ex-NEC member
    British Committee for the Universities of Palestine

    20 January 2020 at 7:40am
  5. Alan McShane said:

    Although I didn’t meet Nita or know her I am very, very sad to hear of her passing away. My deepest sympathy to her family and friends at this sad time.

    21 January 2020 at 4:09pm

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