‘It’s about standing up for everyone’
Photo report by Corinna Lotz and Peter Arkell
25 November 2010
Thousands of school and university students who gathered in Trafalgar Square on Wednesday to express their opposition to education cuts and soaring tuition fees were part of a nationwide protest, organised largely by social networking.
Students walked out around the country, with large demonstrations in London, Leeds, Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, Nottingham, Birmingham, Sheffield, Durham and Plymouth.
Even Scottish students who pay no fees set up camp outside the Lib Dem headquarters in Edinburgh. In Whitehall, police penned in hundred of students, blocking them from Parliament Square until late in the evening.
Many school students had painted their faces and twisted school ties in their hair, as they held up signs in favour of the Education Maintenance Allowance and against the introduction of university fees of up to £9,000 a year.
Alethea Kiley, Lola Hindley and Dusty-May Fairweather were amongst the 50 or so pupils from year eleven at Dunraven school in Streatham, south London standing under Nelson’s Column.
“I think it’s quite pathetic,” Thea explained. “At the end of it, fewer students will go to university because they can’t find the fees. There will be fewer doctors and people going to the main jobs – which means that the NHS will go down.
“Everything is going to be cut. That’s just going to put our country into a big, deep recession. We are quite a rich country, even though we are in debt, with many facilities we can use but it’s all going to be cut down if the government does this to us.
“I’m only 15, but I feel strongly about it because it’s just come up. My parents want me to go to university – and I am going to. But our parents were paid to do it! Now we are expected to pay up to £9,000 per year, which is ridiculous.”
“In other countries in Europe, for example, in France higher education is free – the opportunity is available to everyone,” Lola interjected. “We have a state education for a good reason, which is that in this country, the majority of people believe that everyone has the right to have a good education no matter what their financial background. But by raising the cost of university, it will only be available to certain people and that isn’t right.
“Countries like China and India are getting higher and higher graduate rates and we are falling behind. We won’t have people with those qualifications. It’s going to be a dull country. No one will want to come here. People who don’t go to university will find it harder to get jobs – so we will have higher unemployment. It won’t work.
“The reason we have a state school system,” Lola continued, “is because schools should be about educating people and not about being a business. If you want to run a business go and run it, don’t start a school!“People our age have said to me, why are the university students protesting when it doesn’t affect them? But it is not about whether it affects you personally or not and whether they go to a private school or not. And it’s not only about just about standing up for ourselves – it’s about everyone. If nobody ever stood up for things that affect other people, we wouldn’t get anywhere!”