Youth in Action, January-February 2016

From the January-February 2016 issue of News & Letters

by Natalia Spiegel

Last year students, parents and teachers in Jefferson County, Colo., revolted against an effort to force a right-wing curriculum down the students’ throats. There were massive walkouts, highway blockages, etc. A campaign to recall the three school board members responsible for this assault on education was an overwhelming success. The three were decisively defeated. More progressive candidates swept into office with 65% or more of the vote in the November election.

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Following the lead of the South African students who last year fought for and won the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, the architect of apartheid in South Africa, students at Oxford University in England, Rhodes’ alma mater to which he gave large donations to benefit that bastion of ruling class education, are campaigning to have all images and names honoring him on the campus permanently removed. Oxford is the home of the (Cecil) Rhodes Scholarships. As of this writing, the struggle is continuing.

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Students force their way through the gates of parliament as police try to resist them, during demonstration on 21 October 2015. Photo credit: EPA / Nic Bothma

An unprecedented movement of student activism has been sweeping South African university campuses and cities, culminating in a massive and historic march on Oct. 23, 2015, at the seat of the South African government. Not since the Soweto Uprising of 1976 have this many youth demanded the right to a quality and accessible education. They won their demand of no tuition increase, but only for this year. They note that the historic Freedom Charter of the African National Congress (ANC) calls for free universal education for all students and are demanding that the ANC government live up to that promise. Further, the students have called for the “decolonization” and “transformation” of higher education institutions, the insourcing of outsourced workers (mostly cleaning, security and support staff), and the release of their classmates arrested earlier. As several students pointed out: “White dominance is not just about numbers, it is about patterns of thinking and the style and content of teaching.”

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