On campuses and in communities, from the Americas to Africa, students are at the forefront of demanding a more fairly funded, decolonised, quality education system. Our national contexts may differ, and our campaign slogans might vary - but whether it’s standing up against cuts to student grants in Denmark, or rejecting tuition fee increases in South Africa, students all over the world are facing the same challenges of underfunding and demanding a fairer deal. And so, as our struggles become increasingly shared, our response becomes global.
Fund our future is an initiative that was born out of a conversation between student activists from Europe, South and North America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific during a global student voice meeting. Discussions revealed that common issues for all student activists were symptoms of underfunding of our education system- we realised we have a lot to learn from each other, and that too often, we aren’t aware of the struggles students face in other countries.
The initiative aims to provide a global platform - http://www.globalstudentvoice.org/en/fund-our-future- through which students can share their experiences and ideas, showcase campaigns and protests as they happen, and facilitate the sharing of support and solidarity. Regionally, we have a lot to learn from each other - we have very different funding systems and political contexts, yet we can lift practical campaigning ideas or research to win the arguments on funding education. National demonstrations will take place throughout the months of October and November, with online actions focusing on the 17th November- the international day of the student. On this day in 1939, Nazi troops stormed Charles University in Prague, killing 9 students and sending more than 1200 to concentration camps- a response to peaceful protests led by students against the occupation. This day is commemorated every year to promote students’ rights and access to education, and to draw attention to the social and democratic impact of student activists.
We all have something unique to offer a global campaign, and providing an easy way for student movements around the world to connect, to learn from one another and share our experiences is important in building an understanding of each other’s contexts- and through that, a feeling of being part of a wider movement, that will only strengthen our resolve and motivation to fight locally.
Now, more than ever, we need solidarity
It’s not just the increasing cost of education, or the underfunding of our institutions. Threats to students’ rights go further than simply financial ones.
During the last year, we’ve seen increased attacks globally on students’ rights to self organise, with peaceful protests disrupted, students arrested and an increase in police brutality on campuses. Mass imprisonment in Zimbabwe and Burma and use of rubber bullets and stun grenades in South Africa are just some of many shocking examples. The right of students to peacefully protest, and to self organise, is a core value of the global student movement, and so facilitating the global promotion of the struggles students are facing locally, means that we’re championing that right, and helping support those fighting for it when it doesn’t exist.
An increasingly international education system presents both challenges and opportunities
Our need to cooperate is furthered by the potential consequences of an increasingly globalised higher education system- a change necessary to meet future challenges, but one that risks further embedding inequalities. Students’ voices must be central to the future development of education globally, to ensure that the provisions put in place meet societal and student needs. This increasingly international higher education system has the potential to tackle shared issues and challenges through cooperation and partnership, for example climate change, sustainable development, and education as a public good. But without students’ involvement, or students’ voices heard in this process, that opportunity may be missed.
But sharing support and solidarity isn’t just helping support our campaigns on campus or in the classrooms, it’s helping to increase cooperation, and communication, between students globally. At a time where politically, division and hate is becoming a dominant narrative, students can, and should, be at the forefront of promoting the values of internationalisation and cooperation. Through building a global network of activists, increasing awareness of issues around the world, and facilitating communication, a global approach to campaigning is also ensuring that this generation is one that cooperates, talks, and values those vital international links.
And so as this campaign develops over the coming months, as new student movements join and our network grows, at the heart of this whole project is a desire by students worldwide, to be at the forefront of fostering partnerships, increasing communication and leading the way in fighting for a better world, together.
Note: A longer version of this blog was first published on University World News.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.