The 12th August we are celebrating International Youth Day. A day to remember to stop and for a second reflect upon the role of youth as change makers in this world.

Throughout history youth have proved to be leading change for more just, equal and democratic societies all over the world. Students are often the first to take the streets when human rights are threatened, as they just did in Hong-Kong for example. Therefore, they are also often the first ones to be persecuted, arrested, beaten up, abducted, tortured and in some cases killed. This was sadly demonstrated just last week in Sudan, where five high-school students were shot dead and more than 60 wounded, some by snipers, when they rallied in Al-Obeid against fuel and bread shortages.

Students at Risk

Despite the fact that youth and students are in forefront of the most progressive and persistent movements for democratic change, human rights, academic freedom or the climate, all over the world youth are still neglected, marginalised and perceived as ‘too young’ to be treated as equals in important decision-making processes.

Democracy and equality cannot be successfully imposed but are built by people, by societies, by critical free minds and by those who dare to stand forefront to fight for a better tomorrow. Those who dare to continue the fight and those who deny being bend by an unjust system taking away their rights. Often those people are students.

Student leaders and youth activists continue to criticise oppressive regimes, human right violations, corruption and anti-democratic forces and to fight for their right to education all over the world, like recently in South Africa, Albania or Brazil. This often comes at the cost of their future either through beatings, persecution and killings or by losing access to education and future jobs by expulsion and systematic exclusion.

We must protect the leaders of tomorrow

Despite this we do not see many programs or initiatives globally aiming to protect student leaders and youth activists fighting for this change. There are brilliant and important initiatives globally protecting the voices of scholars, artists and journalists but few protecting students.

The Norwegian Student at Risk Programme has successfully been protecting student leaders of higher education who have been experiencing persecution, threats or expulsion by offering scholarships allowing students to finalise their studies, expand their global network and return as stronger activists. But the number of scholarships is limited and the need comprehensive.

SDG4aims to ensure quality education for all. SDG 4.7 promotes global citizenship and education for sustainable development and 4.B aims to substantially expand the number of scholarships globally. These scholarships should be dedicated to protecting the change makers of this world and to connect students across continents to engage in the global struggle to protect human rights. Education is the most important tool for any kind of change and if we, as global civil society, wish a more just world based on peace, equity and human rights we must protect those in the forefront fighting for these rights; youth.

We must protect the leaders of tomorrow and ensure they do not have to resign their chances to get an education but that they are armed with the most powerful tool we have, education. That they are included in decision making processes as equals and are recognised as an important and undeniable force towards a better future.

Frederikke Hogsgaard

Frederikke Høgsgaard is the Danish representative from the Danish National Coalition for Education. She is a master’s student in International Development Studies and Global Studies and are member of the International Committee in the Danish National Union of Students (DSF) representing Danish students of higher education in global matters. This include being member of the Danish National Commission and the executive committee of UNESCO, the European Students Union (ESU) and in the global partnership with Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU).

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The Global Campaign for Education (GCE) is a civil society movement that aims to end exclusion in education. Education is a basic human right, and our mission is to make sure that governments act now to deliver the right of everyone to a free, quality, public education.