More than 1,000 students are marching on parliament in London, as students protest over Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) in towns and cities across the country.
MPs are currently debating Tory plans to scrap the weekly payment to students from poorer families that enables them to remain in education.
The Tories and Lib Dems hoped to steer around the issue without discussion—a vote is not required by law—but the Labour Party forced a debate.
If the Tories win, the £30-a-week benefit will be removed, leaving thousands of students unable to afford to continue their education. One survey shows that 70 percent of students would drop out if EMA is removed.
Students from universities are joining college and school students for the protest.
In London students gathered at Piccadilly Circus before marching to parliament.
Harriet Eagle, a second year student from South Bank University told Socialist Worker, “We can't let the government get away with this. If we don't act now and stand up for what we believe in then no one will. We need the biggest possible numbers, workers and students together, to win.”
The home made banners which have become synonymous with the student protests are in evidence as students begin to gather. The slogans sum up the importance of EMA to students. “£30 a week lets me eat,” reads one. “EMA is some people’s only way,” says another.
Dmitri, a school student from Haringey in north London said. “It’s the poor students that are being targeted. We don't have rich parents to turn to—this government has left us with no choices in life.”
Sherine Woods goes to college in south London. She said, “We have to make sure that we don’t go away. I think this is just the beginning.
“We have just gone back to school, so it’s good people have turned up even though we have exams. The 24 November demo was the first one I’ve ever been on—for the first time I felt like my ideas were taken seriously.
“People say that young people don’t have any idea about politics, but we’ve proved them wrong.”
Around 100 students have shut down a branch of Lloyds TSB in Birmingham to highlight the madness of the government cutting student grants while doing nothing to stop bankers pocketing billions in bonuses.
Chants of “I say Tory, you say scum!” and “Education not for sale put the bankers into jail” are ringing through the air.
Tom, a school student, told Socialist Worker, “I’m here because I think it’s absolutely despicable that the government is cutting EMA while doing nothing to stop bankers bonuses. They are making workers and students pay for a crisis we didn’t cause.”
Molly, who goes to college in Birmingham, said, “I think EMA needs defending. Everyone at my school is worried about it and are angry. I have a friend who will have to stop school if she loses her EMA because her parents cannot afford the travel costs.
“People have to keep the campaign up—we have to get more people involved, it isn’t inevitable that they push this through if we are big enough and fight hard enough.”
Molly, like many of the students on the protest, said she will be coming to London on 29 January to join the national protest against education cuts.
“Everyone has to go to London or Manchester to protest on 29 January—it has to be massive, and involve workers too. We need unity between workers and students, none of us can fight and win on our own.”
Protests have also taken place in Manchester, Sheffield, Middlesbrough and many more.