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Student activism: A track to social development

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Student activism is the participation of individual students in group activities aimed at defending their interests and bringing about changes in systems, policies, attitudes, knowledge, norms and behavior regarding issues affecting the lives of students or society.

It is a part of the spectrum of the student’s voice.

Activism has surged in the last decade, with young campaigners like Malala Yousafzai calling on leaders both on and off-campus to right wrongs, erase inequalities and secure the future of our planet.

But this is nothing new; student activists led the charge during the Civil Rights Movement and were early adopters of environmentalism.

Educators, and especially young ones, have always gravitated towards activism. But young people are more engaged now than they had been in generations, and they are active on a wide array of issues.

They took action throughout the presidential election and were considerably more likely to vote than in previous years.

According to the United Nations, and likewise the African Union, “Student activism has an important role to play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Agenda 2063 – including the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016 – 25”.

Since higher education institutions are leaders in education, research and innovation, they also have an important role in advancing sustainable development through well-articulated student voices as a tool for social and economic change.

Impact of the student’s voice

Student activism can be a pathway to achieving harmony by being in a position of compatibility, usefulness, and benefit to other things.

Harmony is a balanced understanding that must arise upon deliberate efforts, and it transmits greater peace to others.

Troubled minds, tensions and frustrations are inharmonious, but they may yield an effort to restore harmony.

Although student activism represents an effective way of supporting critical thinking, collaboration, citizenship, identity consciousness, civic engagement and leadership skills in students, through a democratic process, society often excludes students from influencing decision‐making.

Such an occurrence stems from the fact that society often views student activists as troublemakers under the manipulation of political figures.

Not only is student activism a meaningful contribution to society, but it is a great way to stay connected and up to date.

Activism helps to develop communication, connections, relationships and critical thinking skills. Civic engagement is always a good thing to practice and is essential for life.

Recently, student activists have predominantly resorted to nonviolent tactics and social media platforms to organize their activities and make their voices heard.

These tactics include volunteerism, social commentary using podcasts, animations or caricatures, writing think pieces and viral videos, hunger strikes, sit‐ins, parades, blockading roads and buildings, class and brand boycotts, theatrical performances, threats of legal action, and play‐acting.

These thoughtful activities help students to practice democracy and acquire citizenship skills which often help spread harmony.

Thus, when students are harmonious in carrying out activism, they go on strikes rather than resort to violence. Therefore, it helps students to become democratic agents of the nation, thereby constituting peace and betterment in society.

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Yusuf Abdulbasit Hozaifah
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