Examples: Unions in Action!
Activists in school student unions are fundamental for education to democratic citizenship and human rights. Some concrete examples of actions by our member organizations show how school student unions fight to advance active participation of school students in creative ways, empowering students to stand up and building an active society all the way: our member union SUS, from Slovakia, ran a human rights multiplier training in the framework of the OBESSU Seeds for Integration initiative on the inclusion of refugees and migrants in Slovak schools. Our Italian members RSM and UdS both host big summer camps each year full of non-formal discussions and events where school students from all over the country come together and discuss how to change the Italian education system for the better - on a camping site. In Austria, AKS offers anti-discrimination workshops for schools which aim to empower students to stand up against racism, homophobia, sexism and other forms of hate and discrimination they face in and outside schools. From formal parliaments to two week camps, school student unions are keen to bring students together and give them the information and tools to challenge the current situation. Other unions take local or national elections as opportunities to show what it means to practice democratic citizenship. In Iceland our member union SIF regularly organizes shadow elections in high schools. Shadow elections are a great way of non-formal learning on politics and society through the values of democratic citizenship. SLL, a Finnish school student union goes even further. They were recently mobilizing and encouraging school students to vote for the municipal elections and to run for an elected position. They supported the candidates with trainings on how to be a school students advocate in the elections and run a successful youth-ful campaign. One of their main campaigning tools is Snapchat, the photo-sharing app used by so many young people these days. Even more than facebook, this app is the ideal format to reach out to youngsters with snappy pictures and short statements. Far from just claiming political demands and pushing parties to react, school student unions mobilize young people to discuss education politics in their communities and make the changes they want to see.
© OBESSU Facebook page
Lastly, some unions take direct action to stand up for the rights of school students. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, school students of ASuBiH were campaigning in schools and on the streets against an education reform that increases segregation within the school system, separating school students with different cultural backgrounds. In Denmark, there have been several protests with thousands of school students since 2016 to reject government budget cuts on education. Similarly in Switzerland, a group of unions including our member USO was organizing protests against cuts. Whilst some campaigns are more successful and lead to policy changes, the experience of all campaigns improve school students’ feeling of worth and highlight the importance of unionism.
© Provided by OBESSU
On the map, you can see all the countries in which OBESSU has at least one member organization that is working on citizenship education and human rights education. We are still trying to increase the membership to give even more school students a stronger voice. All over Europe, school students are organizing and claiming their democratic rights which have been too long ignored. Their fight for more accessible education, better learning conditions in schools, higher quality education in classrooms is crucial for building active democratic communities and young activists who stand up for human rights today and tomorrow.