The International Union of Students
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Last Update: 11/18/2002
Prague Students in every region around the world are holding activities to mark November 17, International Students Day. Although the issues vary from country to country, the overall message is clear: the students unions of the world are calling upon their governments to oppose war, to end human rights abuses, and to defend public education from trade deals that threaten accessibility and governments ability to provide high quality public services.
Already, students across the Americas, from Canada to the tip of Latin America held a hemispheric day of action on October 31, 2002, against the Free Trade Area of the Americas, stated Frage Sherif, Secretary General of the International Union of Students. The call for an end to trade in public services marked the beginning of this years celebrations of International Students Day, but events will take place in countries around the world until the end of November.
By the end of month, activities for International Students Day will have taken place in dozens of different countries, including in Burma (Thailand), Australia, the Philippines, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Tunisia, Switzerland, Germany, Macedonia, Cyprus, Canada, the United States of America, Cuba, Palestine, St. Lucia, the West Indies, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.
Annual celebrations of November 17 as International Students Day began in 1941, in comemoration of students who were killed protesting fascism on the streets of Prague, in what was then Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic). Since that time, the theme of the global day for students has always revolved around efforts to achieve Peace, Equality and Freedom, not just for students, but for the peoples of the world.
The focus for this years events reflects the key challenges facing students and public education.
Stated Liz Carlyle, November 17 Campaign Coordinator and Treasurer of the International Unoin of Students: As governments give or have taken away through multilateral trade agreements and economic restructuring plans imposed by international financial institutions their powers to defend the public interest, we see access to high quality public education and other basic services declining, and poverty, user fees and privatisation on the increase.
The international student movement has named these broad trends in education commodification, and International Students Day 2002 marks the intensification of a global student campaign to eradicate poverty and to defend and support high quality public education at all levels.
The IUS also notes that torture and repression of democratic students organisations continues to be a serious problem. Amnesty International recognises this type of human rights abuse, and has issued a special action bulletin on represssion of students, to coincide with International Students Day. The International Union of Students plans to continue its co-operation with the international human rights organisation, by sharing information and consolidating global actions to prevent and stop torture, beatings, politically-motivated detentions, and repression of students right to organise.
Concluded Sherif: Global conflicts and militarism also threaten efforts to eradicate poverty and destroy infrastructure and public services like education. Since the terrible events of September 11, 2001, the tenor of global conflicts now reverberates at disturbing levels. In particular, students have expressed their opposition to unilateral military action against Iraq, the occupation of Palestine, and to militarism in general, and call instead for governments to build peaceful, broad-based, political approach.