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Leenstelsel Protest, Statement: Maria Toko

How has the cost personally impacted you?

Personally, I’ve been making cuts on my wellness and self-care budget where I normally would be thinking, okay I’m going to go for something relaxing. Mentally I’m just going to say no because it might be too tight so it might not be as important as I think it is. It's just switching your priorities, where you first do not know the impact it will have on your wellbeing and at the end, you are reminded of the fact that it is a part of how you restrict yourself and what you need in general. It’s something you shouldn’t be cutting back on. Why are you here today to protest? What's your intention, how do you feel?

First of all, I feel good, and I really have prioritized this event. The reason why is because I'm currently finalizing my studies so I’m writing my thesis, and literally this morning I woke up at around 6 AM and I was like okay, I definitely got to be here, and I was invited as a speaker which means that I got to share a motivational speech on stage. I'm here because I think that it's very important that we as students really make an impact on how we treat the things that we find serious, and for me, this is a serious matter, even if I'm almost graduating, I know that the students that are studying, have the same issues or even issues that I have never encountered before because of the fact that we have students loans. And so the first thing is, of course, I have my moment as a speaker, but eventually, I think that it's just important to also represent. Most of the time, there are underrepresented groups that just do not get on stage. So for me, it was really important to make sure that within my speech, I would share the fact that I'm not here to just share some nice words that I'm really here because of the people that matter.

What kind of change do you want to see in regards to this current system, for the future, this next generation, and, actually the generation before us as well. I think the most important thing is that we are stepping away from the idea that the situation will sort itself. Most of us look at politics as like time will bring change on itself, or maybe the next group of politicians will take care of this, but I think, first of all, that it is time to take action right here and right now, it's also really holding people accountable and I think that for us as students we should hold ourselves and each other accountable in the fact that understanding what we're going through and understanding that we have the rights, for example, to strike as we do today to have, you know, to write letters to put up pictures or to just be more active by having your voice heard.

And also, when it comes to student loans, definitely compensation for the students who have been financially hurt to say, and also the opportunity for students to maybe not have a debt one day, because studying is not something you just do for yourself you’re eventually giving back to society. Why can we not take all the richdom that we have here and make sure that the ones that should be invested in for the future, get what they need, especially because we are always like the forgotten child. They never know what they should do with us students, and I think that today we actually told them what we want, so it should be clear and if not, well, then we need to do it again.

Should the responsibility lie with students or the government or both?

It's a shared responsibility because I think that we as students are responsible for whatever we encounter. I think we are all capable of doing something, that is like our responsibility you know to not just sit back and relax. So I think that's the first thing and secondly, it's the government's responsibility because they're the ones who decide on policies you know they decide on the topics that will be discussed. But also going back to the students, we are the ones who can initiate different topics that will be discussed for example on the level of the municipality or even nationally. So, it's a shared responsibility but I put pressure on the government.

Do you have any final words? Let's really be active in what we want to achieve because in the end, if we don’t say what we want we won’t get what we want. And I think that together we can be loud enough to be that voice that will be heard. We can see that there’s a recent change in politics here in the Netherlands, so I see the opportunities and possibilities. So I hope that we will all come together because we will have a bigger impact. By Maria Toko Chair, Student Association Tribez



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