Students from various secondary schools in Freetown recently converged to commemorate the anniversary of the 1939 Nazi storming of the University of Prague after demonstrations against the killing of Jan Opletal, the occupation of Czechoslovakia and the execution of 9 student leaders. Over 1200 students were sent to concentration camps and all Czech universities and colleges were closed and occupied by the Nazi regime.
Since then, November 17th, the fateful day on which the events began to happen, is commemorated annually worldwide as Internal Students Day.
The organisers of the event in Freetown included Patriotic Advocacy Network (PAN), West African Youth Network (WAYN), the National Literary Debate Association (NLDA) and Civil Peace Service (CPS), all civil society organisations working on youth education issues.
The Executive Director of the NLDA, Mohamed Kanneh stated that the event is commemorated annually on the 17th of November in observance of student activism, adding that they feel indebted to work with every entity concerned to raise the awareness of the celebration of this day and to look at crosscutting issues relating to students.
Kanneh said that this year’s theme for the celebrations is “Minimizing Injustices and Marginalization against Students to Achieve Quality Education” and that is why they are engaging students to address issues on marginalisation that have left students disadvantaged and vulnerable.
“We have, times without number witnessed students being maltreated by lecturers and deprived of facilities that are due them,” he lamented.
Mr. Kanneh said that this year’s commemoration is a nationwide affair, adding that students in the Southern and Northern provinces are engaged in media campaigns and those in the Eastern Province are occupied with heavy debate encounters on burning issues, adding that they were also organising dialogue sessions between students and stakeholders in the education sector.
“This year’s commemoration seeks to popularize the Day by encouraging students to take ownership of this event. We are also striving to create a platform for students to be able to voice out their opinions and grievances on issues affecting them and stand against injustice and marginalization in all its forms”
Mohamed Keita, Executive Director, PAN
The Director of WAYN – CPS Program from Germany, Mr. Christoph Schlimpert, who is also a lecturer at Fourah Bay College, called on students to be united, not only for protests, but for the improvement of the systems in which they find themselves instead of having intra-conflicts and destroying their own facilities.