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Student protests against EMA cuts
Over the last two days, while further demonstrations have taken place nationally against the abolition of Education Maintenance Allowance, a survey indicated that 70% of EMA recipients would have to drop out of their course if their grant was withdrawn; and a sharp rise in unemployment among 16 and 17 year olds has been reported. Reports from London, Leeds and Coventry follow.
Marching to parliament in London
Around 600 students marched in central London on Wednesday 19 January against the scrapping of Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).
Inside the House of Commons, a motion calling for a parliamentary vote on the issue was voted down. This was proposed by the Labour Party, that is presently supporting the campaign, however, during the last general election they gave no guarantee that they would have kept EMA if they had won.
Disgracefully, on this crucial issue for hundreds of thousands of young people, only a handful of MPs saw fit to attend the parliamentary debate. But the students gathered outside parliament showed that the movement against these cuts has not gone away. Although smaller than the protests at the end of last year (affected by exams and other factors) this was an extremely important stage in rebuilding the momentum of the campaign.
The next important date for young people who want to fight back against the Con-Dem cuts agenda is 29 January. On this day, students will be uniting with workers and young trade unionists in marching for education, decent jobs and the right to a future. In Manchester, a demonstration backed by the unions PCS, UCU, NUT and NUS will be assembling at 10.30am at the Manchester Museum and marching to a TUC organised youth rally in Platts Field. There will also be an education demonstration taking place in central London on the same day.
Claire Laker Mansfield, Socialist Students
Silent EMA protest in Leeds
On Tuesday 18 January, the day before parliament voted to decide the future of Education Maintenance Allowance, 45 school, college and university students held a silent protest in Leeds city centre. EMA is a vital programme which provides financial support to students from less well off backgrounds, who without their weekly EMA payment might not be able to afford to study at sixth form or college.
EMA exists to provide money for transport, stationery equipment and books for students who may not be able to afford the costs of study.
The silent protest was organised and called by school and college students from Leeds. Armed with banners, leaflets and taped up mouths, the protest had an eerie resemblance to what out educational institutions will sound like if the government's attack on them is successful: deathly silent.
The response of many passers-by and passengers on passing buses was encouraging; with people taking leaflets and some offering words and gestures of support.
Eventually the protest sprung into angry chants, indicating that hearts still beat with those who wish to obtain an education and are fighting for that chance.
After twenty minutes of chanting, the protest marched back to Leeds Metropolitan University for a meeting on EMA and issues specifically relating to college and school students.
The organisation and fighting will of school, college and university students shows that the Con-Dem government will have to fight every section of society it attacks. Those with the future to lose are not standing idly by, they are active, they are angry and they are linking the struggle to every section of society facing the cuts.
This attack on EMA is just another aspect of Cameron's programme to keep the masses out of further and higher education and strengthen the position of the privileged in Britain. The closure of the EMA programme won't just be a financial sting for the working class but will further limit the ability of many students who aspire to go to university, as they will be effectively priced out of the route to university.
Robert Harries, Leeds University Socialist Students
Demo in Coventry
Youth Fight for Jobs and Education in Coventry organised an EMA demo on Wednesday 19 January as MPs were debating scrapping the EMA. Around 60 students and workers from around the city joined together as the students marched down the High Street to the Council House.
Socialist Party members Lenny Shail, Rob Windsor, Paul Hunt and 15 year old school student Joe Shail all spoke at the demo. The students were encouraged to express their views and feelings, and several addressed the crowd.
It was clearly outlined that we should not have to pay for the banking crisis and this was highlighted again and again, as was the need for a socialist society. Following the demo, over 20 students attended a Socialist Party meeting. The local newspaper ran a positive story on the demo.