Not today nor rare to find student activists, taking the streets to protest not only the state of their school but also the state of a nation. From discomforts like tuition fees, lack of adequate structures to calling out leaders to make changes to policies affecting them, students have not been shy to perform a certain form of protests to have voices heard.
Recently, student activism has been on the rise especially in the U.S. because of gun control and police brutality on black students among others.
Yesterday, the world commemorates International Students Day, here are some notable black student activists on the global stage:
Black Lives Matter
When Michael Brown was killed, most protestors who took to the streets were students. They rose up against police brutality against unarmed black people. For their protests, they were called thugs and troublemakers and very few people bothered to support them.
It is their protests that brought the cases of police brutality to the global stage.
Following the shooting in Parkland shooting in Florida in February, a number of black students used the momentum to highlight violence in their own backyards. One of them is Trevon Bosley a Chicago student, who headed to Washington, D.C., for the March for Our Lives protest that called for the end of violence in his hometown.
“I’m here to speak for those youth who fear they may be shot while going to the gas station, the movies, the bus stop, to church or even to and from school. I’m here to speak for those Chicago youth who feel their voices have been silenced for far too long. And I’m here to speak on behalf of everyone who believes a child getting shot and killed in Chicago or any other city is still not an acceptable norm,” said the 19-year-old who lost his brother to gun violence in 2006.
Fees must Fall
South Africa has had its share of student activism. In 1976, the Soweto Uprising took place to protest the implementation of Afrikaans as a language of instruction.
Following in their colleagues’ steps, in 2015, a group of students took to the streets to protest the increases in student fees across South African universities.
The protest, which started off at the Universty of Witswatersrand and spread to the University of Cape Town and Rhode University, resulted into the destruction of property worth US$44.25 million.
The protest came to an end a year later when the government said it will not increase fees. It had already spread to other universities resulting in the suspension of academic programmes. The government was not only compelled to prevent any fee increase but to create a bursary program for students. Further, there was a discussion on the treatment of black students and staff in some universities.
Aged just 11, Wadler was also part of the March for our Lives protest. She took to the stage to stand for African American girls and women who have suffered gun violence but have been ignored by the media.
Wadler had led her classmates in a school walkout to protest the killing of black girls.
“I am here today to represent Courtlin Arrington. I am here today to represent Hadiya Pendleton. I am here today to represent Taiyania Thompson, who at just 16 years old, was shot dead at her home here in Washington, DC,” she said during her speech.
For Patel, racist hair politics in her school in Pretoria was the one thing that had her lead fellow students to the streets. Patel had been told by her teachers that her afro needs to be tamed.
This sparked protests in other South African schools, resulting in the amendment of hair policies to rid them of racist restrictions.