The youth wing of the FNV trade union and the LSVb (National Student Union) have been busy organising protests against student loans. This week students will congregate in several places in the Netherlands to raise awareness of the situation in which students currently find themselves, in which they know they will have to repay significant student loan debts after graduating. On Wednesday, 19 May they protested in Rotterdam.

For future generations

student studieschuld protest leenstelsel rotterdam 19-05-2021
One of the participants shares her study debt: EUR 32,514.28 and she has not yet graduated. Image credit: Josephine Hartmann

The protesters made themselves heard in the entire city, from Schouwburgplein to Blaak, and from there to the City Hall. Sometimes they received applause from the people seated at the cafés’ outdoor seating areas.

Nathaniel Germain, who attends Erasmus University, helped organise the protest. He was happy with the evening’s turn-out. “We’ve attracted a good number of people and we’re definitely getting people’s attention. Also, we have many different types of students in our midst. The youth wing of the Communist Party is represented, but so is, say, the youth wing of CDA.”

His fellow protester Dasha Derzhavets agreed with the latter, but felt the protests should be attended by more people. “We should have way more people here. We’re not just doing this for ourselves, but for future generations. More students should get together for protests like this.”

Strung along

The chairman of the Young Socialists, Bob den Ouden, who attends Erasmus University, as well, was another participant in the march. “The main objective of this protest is to raise awareness. I’m here on behalf of the Young Socialists. Like nearly all youth wings of political parties, we oppose student loans.”

The students carried a red-and-white ribbon through the city. “It could symbolise the fact that we students are being strung along,” said Bob. “But in actual fact, I believe we’re only using it as a tool to help ourselves keep five feet’s distance from each other!” He grinned.

protest leenstelsel rotterdam 19-05-2021
Nathaniel leads the protest march on Coolsingel. Image credit: Josephine Hartmann

Everything for free

So what exactly is it these students want? “We need things to change. For instance, we need student grants for everyone. Basically, everything should be provided for free. We students can’t be expected to pay for everything. We don’t have the means for that,” explained Dasha.

For his part, Nathaniel added: “The changes we want are clearly defined. We want everyone to be able to graduate without incurring any debt, and we want those people who are currently attending universities to be compensated for the lack of student grants – in a way that doesn’t negatively affect the quality of our degree programmes, obviously.”

LSVb and FNV Young & United are organising a nationwide strike in The Hague on 3 June. They are calling on everyone to join the protest on that date, to make sure that students are not forgotten when the incoming Cabinet draws up its budgets.