EMA protests: reminding the government under-18s exist

It’s rare I have to read or watch the news first thing in a morning anymore, Twitter usually fills me in on the main bits, and as biased as this may be, I usually get the gist of the facts. Today, however, has been especially biased in the case of the student protests against EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance).

When the main student protests against tuition fees took place in November the response was fairly even-sided, with roughly equal numbers tweeting in favour and against of the protests. All I am reading today though are tweets ridiculing the protests, but how fair are we being in doing this?

First off there is the basic right to freedom of speech, students are having free money taken away from them, it was never going to go down well, so why shouldn’t they protest? For me, I’m thinking of the second story of the protests though. With tuition fees my thoughts were not of being against the rise in fees, but against the justification of them: would students receive £9000 worth of tuition for their money? I don’t feel they would in most cases where contact hours are set at the minimum and many tutors never get the chance to learn their students’ names.

The question with the EMA protests is not that they are going to lose their pocket money, but the fact that they don’t have a say in it either way. The government refused 16 year olds the vote, despite wanting a rise in younger voting numbers, and as a result these individuals are having to put up with decision they couldn’t have a say in.

I’m not defending their right to EMA, I agree it’s a complete waste of money, as one of my Twitter followees displayed this morning, claiming that students commonly thought of it as standing for ‘Easy Money for Alcohol’, which is basically what it is, as I remember many students planned their social lives around the weekly pay days.

Students at college are rarely asked to spend money on text books, their travel is subsidised separately if applicable and this leaves little for the EMA to be spent on in terms of education. I don’t deny its usefulness to students, I received £10 a week at college and would have missed it if it had been taken away, but my education wouldn’t have. I would have achieved the same grades, attended the same amount of lessons and contributed the same amount of effort to coursework.

At the end of the day 16 year olds are able to work full time, pay tax and live according to the rules the government set without a single opportunity to influence the way things work. Due to an unfortunate date of birth I didn’t get the opportunity to vote until I was 22, at which point I’d been working 6 years without a say in the way things are run. Students are right to protest and make their voices heard, they deserve a say in the way their lives start out, even if they do choose this start to involve underage subsidised nights out.


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