(Published in my student newspaper Flex on Page 3.)
Around 52,000 students took over the streets of London in protest against education cuts and rise in tuition fees yesterday.
One hundred and fifty students from University College Falmouth joined others in the national Demolition protest on Wednesday 10th November, making it the biggest protest against the review so far.
“Today, we have taken to the streets of London in unprecedented numbers on the biggest student demonstration this century to tell politicians that enough is enough,” said the President of NUS, Aaron Porter. “This is the fight of our lives.”
The protest was organised by National Students Union (NUS) and University and College Union (UCU). It was set up to show the resistance towards government plans to raise the cap on tuition fees from £3,290 to £9,000.
The rally began with a speech from Sally Hunt, the General Secretary of UCU, who said: “Education is a right, not privilege. No government will take this away from us.”
“There are thousands and thousands of you here to say no to fees going up to £,9000, no to cutting EMA, no to the cuts in education and no to a government that breaks its promises,” she added.
Colleges and universities from towns and cities all over the UK took part in the protest. NUS reported that the turnout for the protest was over 50,000.
Deputy General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Frances O’Grady, said: “I want to bring a very clear message to the government here today – We are going to fight these unnecessary, these vicious, these right-wing anti-logical cuts, and we are going to win.”
“Don’t dare tell us we all in this together… punish the bankers, not the students,” she added.
The crowd cheered, showing the government their disagreement with their wide-ranging cuts programme and the direct assault that they are making on further and higher education.
“This isn’t just about an assault on our education system,” said O’Grady. “This is about turning our colleges and universities from places of learning and opportunity into a finishing school for the rich.”
“We’ve got a big fight on our hands,” she added. “We know it’s going to be tough, but I’ll tell you this – we are determined to expose these government cuts as unfair and unnecessary.”
Nearing the end of the rally, student-made videos were shown, expressing their opinion about the cuts. Many were disappointed with MP Nick Clegg’s ignorance after promising to make sure a rise in tuition fees wouldn’t happen.
“We will not put up with these half-truths and lies anymore,” said O’Grady. “Together we are the new coalition.” Abusive chants and banners were aimed at the government such as “Tory Scum” and “Nick Clegg, keep your promises!”
MA photography graduate at UCF, Gopi Mohan, said: “There are so many students who are poor, working their way through university and struggling to study as it is.”
“Rich or poor, everybody has the right to learn and not even the government should have the right to deny anybody of that.”
Students felt a great success from the day and felt optimistic that their voices had been heard.
“Seriously, I feel like I’m part of something,” said 2nd year Film student, Kate Linnell. “I really feel that I can make a difference now.”
Although a minority of students headed towards the riots at the Millibank office when the rally ended, UCF students remained peaceful in their protest.
“I think the protest went well, showing the power of students and strength of the student population in the UK,” said Gopi. “It proved that even we can make things happened if we stand united. We showed the government that no matter what happens, we will stay strong on our point and will fight for our rights and for the rights of every other student in the country.”
The next national protest against the cuts, organised by TUC, will be held on 26th March 2011 in Hyde Park, London. We will protest again and our voices will be heard, so put the date in your diaries.