Students take protest against online education to the Museumplein on Friday

Students clustered together while studying outdoors.
Photo: Depositphotos
Students clustered together while studying outdoors.
Students have been urged to keep their distance. Photo: Depositphotos

Students are staging a protest at the Museumplein in Amsterdam on Friday against online studying and the lack of government initiative to use empty buildings as lecture theatres instead.

The students’ main beef is the number of online classes they will be obliged to take. According to Lyle Muns, chairman of the national student union LSVb, the education ministry, although positive to begin with, has not taken up the students’ suggestion that use external sites, such as theatres and neighbourhood centres could be used for lectures.

‘We discussed this before the summer but little has been done. We have no problem with online lectures. But the work groups, in which we go through the study material together is a fundamental part of the study process and we need to look each other and the teacher in the eye. And we think that can be done,’ Muns told the Volkskrant.

Apart from the LSVb, student unions ASVA and SRVU also suppor the protest, which was initiated by five students whose hashtag #ikwilnaarschool (I want to go to school) was widely shared on social media.

The reason why not all universities are using external facilities is that classes would have to be split up and more teachers would be needed. But, Muns said, it would only be a question of moving the entire class into an empty building – one theological college, for instance, is teaching in churches and Radboud University is using an auditorium in a theatre.

Another reason why students should be physically together is to boost motivation, Muns said. ‘For first-years in particular this is an important phase in their lives. But some are only offered online classes and they lose motivation. We worry about their well-being, but also about inequality: not every student has a nice room, a good lap top and a functioning wifi connection.’

Muns said he realised that the timing for the demand for more physical lessons – on the cusp of a second wave of coronavirus – is not great.

‘But at a time of restrictions and limitations for young people it is necessary to offer them some sort of perspective as well. And we think that controlled physical meetings of students are part of that.’

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