“Students have a legacy of activism,” wrote journalists Li Zhou and Adrienne Green for http://www.theatlantic.com, in 2015. The two writers observe that this legacy is undergoing a renaissance. Over one semester in the US, in 2014, over 160 protests occurred on various campuses. In 2015, students spearheaded #BlackLivesMatter campaigns, as well as walkouts and sit-ins over racial inequality, high tuition fees and gender issues.
In England, in 2015, teachers joined students to protest soaring education costs. In Chile, students in Santiago demanded en masse in 2015 that president Michelle Bachelet speed up education reform (they want free and quality education, in a country where the postsecondary system is privatised). Police met them with water cannons.
At Al-Azhar University in Egypt, students, many of them members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and supporters of the ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, protested against the country’s military and interior ministry in October 2013. Thousands of students demonstrated in Mexico City in July 2015 to mark the 10-month anniversary of the disappearance of 43 teachers-in-training, who were abducted and reportedly murdered by a drug gang working with corrupt police. In late 2014, students gathered in central Athens to chant antigovernment slogans during a rally protesting changes to Greece’s high-school examination system.
Students were at the forefront of 2015 clashes with riot policemen in La Paz, Colombia, during demonstrations protesting the industrialisation of the region. And in Yangon, Myanmar, students battled to cross a police line during a June 2015 protest against the appointment of military representatives to the country’s parliament. Pakistani Shi’ite supporters of the Imamia Student’s Organisation (ISO) held signs aloft and shouted anti-Israel and anti-US slogans during a rally in Karachi, Pakistan, on 16 May 2015, the anniversary of the day Israel was formed and recognised. In the same month, prodemocracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s image featured on posters used by Indonesian students in front of the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta. They stood against what they said was the killing of innocent Muslims in Myanmar.
Students commandeered the area near Taiwan’s Ministry of Education in Taipei last year to complain about changes to their curriculum and to mourn for a student leader who killed himself. Young people burned tyres to express threats to their safety after a bomb attack in July 2015 in Suruc, in the Kurdish-dominated south eastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey. Members of the left-wing All India Students’Association took to the streets to complain about job scams allegedly involving the Madhya Pradesh state chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan.
Say Zhou and Green: “For students entering college, some of them as young as 17, activism is [proving to be] one of the most effective ways to influence public policy. Despite widespread scepticism of the feasibility of protest in effecting change, students are effectively harnessing it as a way to engage officials in conversations about the value of education and more.”
Category: Autumn 2016