It’s not often you feel proud to be a student. Stories of drunken students urinating on war memorials and other such alcohol-induced antics are quickly latched onto by the media. So when I left university last year, I was happy to discard the ‘lazy’, ‘messy’, ‘drunken’ labels.
But yesterday’s protests changed this. It was fantastic to see so many students and young people joining forces to stand up and be counted about something that really matters (no, not Cheryl’s refusal to vote on Sunday night’s X-Factor), but the coalition’s controversial decision to allow universities in England to charge tuition fees of up to £6,000 a year from as early as 2012 (or up to £9,000 for certain universities.)
Prime Minister David Cameron has condemned the ransacking of Millbank Tower, and the papers have been quick to publish images of demonstrators smashing windows. In no way am I condoning the violence of an anarchic minority, but there’s no denying that it has made the government sit up and take notice.
I’m ashamed to say that when I was a student, I didn’t protest. About anything. I found it very easy to live in an insular student world that revolved around lecture theatres, the union and local pubs. I didn’t find myself in a group of friends who saw protesting as a ‘normal’ activity. A desire to ‘belong’ certainly held me back. That’s why I think it’s so brilliant to see students thinking of the bigger picture. Getting off their supposed lazy student backsides and standing up for their rights, saying: ‘Just because we’re young, doesn’t mean we’re going to take this decision lying down.’
While the protest hasn’t changed the PM’s decision, it definitely ruffled coalition feathers — and that’s an achievement in itself.