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Student fury in the face of brutal education cuts across Europe

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-11-26

Across Europe, students and school children have been taking to the streets this week in unprecedented numbers, angry at planned government cuts to education budgets. As austerity looms, Europe’s youth is getting political.

In the face of brutal government cuts to education budgets due to the credit crisis, students and schoolchildren across Europe are wading into political activism on an unprecedented scale.  Europe’s youth are determined that their voice will be heard.

Mass protests on the streets of major European cities have now become almost a daily occurrence, with students in Ireland, the UK and Italy all protesting in record numbers.

Paying the price for mistakes they did not make

Some 130,000 British teenagers and university students protested nationwide Wednesday, angry at proposals to triple university tuition fees to 9,000 pounds a year and cuts of up to 80% to university teaching budgets.

Students say they're having to pay for mistakes that they did not make.

The strength of feeling in the UK was such that even school children took part in the movement in record numbers, having rallied school friends by word of mouth and through social networking sites such as Facebook. They marched through the capital chanting, "No ifs! No buts! No education cuts!"

They were angry at proposed fee hikes, which could put university education out of reach for many, and at the proposed scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), a modest grant given to 16-to-18-year-olds to help them pay for books and transport. School children, specifically in the UK, have never embraced political activism on such a scale since the famed student protests of the 1960s.

The protests in the UK are not just a one off; there are plans for further protests on November 30th, the third day of demonstrations this month.

The president of the UK’s National Union of Students, Aaron Porter, said: "Ministers are sending the miserable message to students and their families that rather than aim higher, they should aim lower."

“We are angry and we want to go out and prove that we won’t be beaten,” Claire Laker-Mansfield of London-based Socialist Students told FRANCE 24. “We won’t only go out on the 30th.  There will be more events.  We want this to escalate nationally.”

Europe’s students stand together

In Rome, students outraged over proposed cuts of around nine billion euros skirmished with police outside the city’s Senate building. "We will block this reform," students chanted, waving smoke flares and banners.

Silvio Berlusconi’s foundering administration is planning to axe an eye-watering 130,000 jobs in the education sector by 2013.

Students breached security at the Tower of Pisa and managed to fly banners from the rooftop.

In Dublin, the Union of Students of Ireland (USI) called for demonstrations in early November in opposition to the government's threat to double registration fees to 3,000 euros. About 30 students managed to occupy the lobby of the Department of Finance, while hundreds protested outside.

Despite action across the continent, European Governments are refusing to budge. Students argue that if Europe is ever to fights its way out of the credit crisis, it needs to have an educated population. Therefore, making a university education less accessible could do real damage to Europe’s efforts to rebuild its economy.

The British Government insists that the cuts, which will result in a 25% reduction in public spending over five years, are essential to stem the bulging budget deficit.

The Irish Government is in an even more impossible situation; drastic budget cuts are the only way for it to secure vital funding from the IMF and EU. It has to slash budgets across the board and the pain will be felt by everyone.

Date created : 2010-11-25

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