Students take on the streets of London demanding free education funded by taxing the rich
On Wednesday this week, thousands of students marched through the streets of central London, demanding free education funded by taxing the rich.
Organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), the national demonstration was endorsed by Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the left-wing grassroots movement Momentum.
Corbyn left a message encouraging students to attend the demonstration. He said: “The political establishment has betrayed young people. Since 2010, the Tories have made unprecedented cuts to further education – they’ve taken away bursaries for nurses and have abolished maintenance for the poorest students.”
“Now the Tories think that capping university fees at £9,250 a year will be some sort of remedy to all this – what an insult. Everyone should have access to quality education from the cradle to the grave, without being forced into debt and anxiety. No-one should be shut out. That’s why I’m supporting the demonstration.”
Tension has been building with regards to the growing possibility of change in the education sector, with Labour Party’s pledge in the general election campaign to create free National Education Service, as well as the defeat of the government in a non-binding vote over raising the fee cap.
Furthermore, Cabinet members have reportedly been discussing several education reforms before next week’s budget, including the restoration of maintenance grants and the reduction of tuition fees. This brought free education closer than ever to becoming a reality and sent waves of determination through society.
Despite this, turnout seemed to be lower compared to last year’s demo, where over 15,000 students and lecturers have attended.
As they marched from Malet Street to Parliament, colourful flares were let off and a samba band performed, creating an energetic, hopeful atmosphere. The crowd chanted: “What do we want? Free education. When do we want it? Now” and “No ifs, no buts, not education cuts,” while bearing placards saying “Free education now; tax the rich”. Student speakers also took the stage to rally the crowd, incorporating much anti-Tory discourse in their speeches.
PiTV spoke to Justine Canady, UCL’s Women’s officer and one of the organizers from the NCAFC, at the protest on Wednesday, she said:
“We called the demonstration after seeing the mass mobilization of young people and students during the general election to vote and campaign for the Labour party.”
“We are at a critical point for education, either we can get to a completely privatized democratized education system like we have in the US, or we can go to a completely different version of education, which is free and accessible to all.”
“We are hoping that people will go back to their campuses, organize grassroots campaigns using direct action, unite with the workers on their campuses and fight for our version of free education.”
One protester told PiTV, “I’m marching to oppose tuition fees because I believe that is the objectification of my education and my education is not for sale, it is a right not a privilege.”
Another student proclaimed, “I don’t believe it is the right of the government to remove lower class and working class families away from a right, a universal right, one that doesn’t need to be commodified and used for profit, and one that uses international students as cash-cows.”
Many expressed anger towards the government’s decision to freeze, rather than reduce, university tuition fees at £9,250, as well as ongoing job cuts on university campuses, compromising the quality of higher education.
To find out more, UUK provides concise breakdown of what a ‘no fees’ policy might entail: link
Featured image: Penelope Barritt Photography