They have masks ready to be handed out and they will spray dots on the grass so that students keep their distance. There will be a law enforcement presence. Friday’s protest will be corona-proof, organisers say.
The students are worried. They want more lessons in suitable locations, such as theatres and convention centres. That's better for education, they say, but also for the growing inequality (not everyone has access to good internet and a fast computer) and for the well-being of students.
Going to school
The demonstration is an idea of the action group 'I want to go back to school' and has the support of two Amsterdam student unions (ASVA and SRVU) and the Dutch Student Union (LSVb).
One of the initiators is Joshua de Roos, Master’s student at the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht. ‘I haven't had a single lecture on campus and I've been sitting at my computer screen all week,’ he says. ‘I haven’t visited my university at all yet. I hate it, yes. It is a small university with narrow corridors, which makes it impossible to guarantee sufficient distancing there.’
The protest comes as the Netherlands stands on the cusp of the 'second wave’. More and more people are becoming infected with the coronavirus and the virus is circulating among young people in particular. Is this a good time for this kind of demonstration?
LSVb chairman Lyle Muns thinks so. ‘We are not asking for any changes to social distancing at all. On the contrary, we want universities and colleges to hire more large venues where they can teach safely. That's very important.’
They do not intend to call into question the coronavirus measures in the way supporters of Virus Truth (‘Viruswaarheid’) have. ‘Then universities and colleges would become coronavirus hot spots and we don't want that. But we do want a good education.’
Who would have to pay for those extra locations? If the educational institutions themselves do not have the money, says Muns, then the ministry must help. ‘The minister also said that she wants to encourage educational institutions to look for more external locations.’
Students are mainly becoming infected in private settings, says Muns, rather than at their colleges or university. ‘You can't just impose restrictions on students, you also have to offer them perspective and tell them how things can be done. Education in a controlled environment fits in with this.’
The organisers are expecting about five hundred protesters, although they are hoping for more. There is enough space at Museumplein, they say.