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What we say, what we do, has impacts. Sometimes beyond what we expected, going on to change people’s lives in ways we couldn’t have dreamed of, would never have dared to suggest. Because we are powerful.

But our efforts don’t always have the results we want. Does that make them meaningless? No, I don’t think so. Which is why, like thousands of others, I protested against the cuts to Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), and the rise in university tuition fees. I remember telling people, afterwards – Ok, so we didn’t win this one. But we’ve learnt some things, built some coalitions, shared some ideas. Next time, we’ll do better, change is a slow process.

I told people, we’ve done something worthwhile, just by explaining the problems with the new system. Telling people that expecting students to pay £9,000 per year for their education is unfair, that leaving us with debts of over £30,000 is going to impact our lives forever, that we need to find a different way of doing this.

Recently, I’ve spent time talking to young people about their futures. Teenagers I used to mentor, or teach, younger friends who are still at school. Some of them aren’t sure they can afford to go to university. I talk them through how it works, what they have to pay and when, but I’m not sure they believe me.

The numbers are huge, and scary. I know that. But, my family’s well off. In my experience, debt has more often been a mortgage, paid off over time, leaving you in a better position. Not payday loans, interest eating up cash so the debts pile up, and you’re worse off than you were before.  If it’s scary for me, with my past, and my experience, it’s worse for other people.

Our campaign, it did have an effect. It shocked and scared people – just not the people we wanted to reach. We are powerful, and we should remember that. I’m not writing this to say that we were wrong, or careless.  I’m not even necessarily saying we shouldn’t have said all the things we said – because, they did need saying, and I stand by that. It would be arrogant to assume that this was only our fault, as if people can’t think for themselves, and nothing else had an impact. Just, what we say, what we do, makes ripples, and we need to pay attention, or we can end up hurting some of the people we set out to help.


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