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Home » Independence Issue, Viewpoint

Viewpoint – Independence: Voices Raised to No Effect – 2011 London Student Fees Protest

Submitted by on February 6, 2011 – 1:00 pmNo Comment

Mikaela at the protest.

I met Mikaela, 20, an International Relations student, on my way back from marching the streets of London towards parliament in protest of the tripled caps on student fees Nick Clegg had promised not to touch, but back tracked on with nothing more than a vague apology. She was sitting, chatting and relaxing with other students on the side of the road as the last wave of banners headed past us to join the main crowd. She didn’t look like your average anarchistic protester that the media has painted us a rather unflattering picture of: semi dressed-to-impress with heeled boots, a casual scarf and the new craze, indie rimmed glasses.

She perfectly summed up the generation that had risen to the occasion today, not particularly interested in politics, but forced to grab a sign and shout their indignation when the suits started to meddle with their comfy student existence. I sat down next to her, pen in hand and put her in the spotlight:

Q: Why are you here today?

A: I’m here to show my support against the new caps on student fees, I think its a sham, they promised us what we wanted to hear and when they had our votes they blew us off.

Q: A sham?! Tell me more.

A: Its discriminating the way students are being treated today. On one hand they rattle on about us being the future of society and education being the only way forward, then trampling on our rights and binding us to huge loans that will take a decade, probably more to pay off. I won’t be affected by the rise, but my younger sister and her friends, as well as all our children will face these new fees and a lot of them will probably choose other options or maybe go abroad to study.

They do say its just a loan, a favourable one at that, something about not having to pay off after you reach a certain income level?
That just looks great on paper. In truth if you’re not going for a degree that will fill your pockets, doctor, lawyer or what not, you’re stuck. It’ll kill culture and the less “high-flier” jobs out there. You don’t want to do a degree in arts, midwifery or journalism fx, as you’re gambling on the job market being able to provide for these when your degree is done and with the current job market that just a sad joke.

Q: So who are you here with, where are you from? 

A: We are a self-organised group from Keele University, there’s about 300 of us, sadly our student union didn’t have any real part of this.

Q: Now the question that is on everyone’s mind, will this actually change anything?

A: No, nothing is going to change. I can’t remember last time activism changed anything in England. Politicians just roll down the curtains when people are crowding outside parliament. But we need to let our voices get heard and I’m positively surprised that the young people in England are actually starting to protest and get involved. The sad thing is that I don’t think anything could have changed this, to the suits we are just numbers on paper, something they can shuffle around as they like. Even if we had chosen Labour they would probably have done the same.

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