Science - April 1, 2004

Wageningen students demonstrate in Amsterdam

Dutch students gathered last Friday 26 March at the Dam in Amsterdam to protest against the government’s plans to introduce selection procedures for university entrance and increases in tuition fees. The demonstration attracted the more politically active part of the student population, a total of about two thousand people. Wb was there.

Daniel Polders, a member of the Progressive Students Party (PSF) went with a group of students from Wageningen, but to watch the band perform rather than for political motives. When accosted by a girl in a red T-shirt with a clenched fist on it, who wants to give him a pamphlet, he keeps his hands firmly in his pockets. “I’ve already been given twenty leaflets today,” says Daniel. “All the left-wing groups are here today to try and get the last leftist students in Holland to join their groups.”

The band starts to play and more and more students gather in front of the stage. After a few numbers, Nikki Heerens climbs onstage. He’s on the board of the Wageningen WSO and also a member of the European Student Union. He has a message of solidarity from the English student union: “Due to protest actions in our own country, the English are unable to be here today.”

Mirjam is a student from Wageningen with an orange T-shirt on, indicating that she’s a marshal responsible for seeing that the demonstration remains an orderly affair. She’s not allowed to answer questions from the press. “I’ve been instructed to direct journalists to the press centre where our press officer has information.” The morning continues with a protest march, initiated by Floris van Eijk, president of the Dutch National Union of Students. “Nijs je bent niet goed wijs!” he shouts, referring to the secretary of state for education and her plans. The students respond with shouts and whistling. Walking along one side of the road five abreast, the group forms a long column and their self-confidence grows. “Down with the cabinet,” a group shouts angrily. | T.H.

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