After hundreds demonstrated against education cuts in Bremerhaven, Germany last year, the mayor promised to shovel money at the problem. A year later, with the situation still worse, parents, teachers and pupils decided to teach the mayor a lesson. Saying that a shovel was much too small now to deal with the problem, they commandeered a digger, christened the Bildungsbagger (education digger), and drove it to the town hall loaded with boxes and boxes of problems. Children from all the schools in the town had illustrated the boxes with all the things they needed, from more learning materials to more teachers and from money for special needs inclusion to more room for children to learn.

A spokesperson from the teachers union, GEW, told reporters that 170 more teachers were needed in the town. And the problem was not confined to Bremerhaven, colleagues in nearby Bremen were facing the same cuts. One child said that they needed a new class teacher because theirs had been taken by another school, which was also short-staffed. 'I think it's daft', she said. A head said that they would be delighted to welcome children from other parts of the EU and refugees but because the school population was growing they needed more room in their buildings, 'we just don't know where we're gong to put them all', she said. 

The boxes, which were also filled with messages from the children, were unloaded by the teachers outside the town hall and left for the edification of the mayor. Speaking to the thousands who had turned up for the protest, the mayor said that the reason he had suggested a shovel rather than a digger was that he knew the state of the finances and he didn't want to raise hopes which couldn't be fulfilled. This argument that there is no money is being used by governments and elites globally to justify cuts to public services. It rings particularly hollow in the fourth richest country in the world.

Only 42% of German young people go on to higher education, way below the OECD average of 62%. Perhaps this is because the country spends 5.3% of its GDP on education, below the OECD average of 6.2%.