“The student movement’s legitimacy is due to its historical heritage, but also due to its natural position to be a cradle of thought and of fresh ideas, with a strong idealistic base”, says Ligia Deca, Chairperson of the European Students’ Union. On November 17, students across Europe celebrate the International Students’ Day, and commemorate the victims after the Nazi storming of the University of Prague in 1939.
EU Commissioner for Education, training, culture and youth, Maroš Šefcovic, is one of the people who take part in the celebration of the International Students’ Day. In a speech to participants at a November 17 conference in Brussels, Šefcovic emphasized the role of students and young people in bringing about change, and spoke of his own experience from the Velvet Revolution in Prague and Czechoslovakia in 1989.
Sjur Bergan, Head of the Department of Higher Education and History Teaching at the Council of Europe, also stressed the role of students as contributors to educational and societal change. He also issued a warning to both students and others:
“Democracy is not like riding a bike. Practising democracy is more like learning a language: you have to keep practising it. If you don’t, you’ll forget how to do it”, Bergan said.
The day is commemorated by student actions across Europe. In Brussels, students will make statements supporting the student movements in Colombia, Iran and Zimbabwe, among others.