How citizens' actions are advancing education globally

Published Apr 28, 2018
Image credit: Pixabay

In honour of Global Action Week for Education which falls on the week of April 22–28 this year, let's take a look at some successful education campaigns in the past that had involved citizens’ actions. These campaigns have brought about positive change in education and are prime examples of how powerful citizens' actions can be. 

2011–2013 Chilean Student Protests

In May of 2011, Chilean students started taking to the streets their dissatisfaction with the country's inadequate provision of public education and the overabundance of for-profit education. The students demanded more state funding for public education, and for there to be increased availability of public schooling for secondary and higher education. Over two years, hundreds and thousands of students and union workers held demonstrations, marches, and strikes to make their voices heard, which ultimately resulted in the government drawing up a proposal for a new education fund, the replacement of the Minister of Education, and a bill that forbids states support of for-profit education.

Petition for Quality Education in Czech Republic

Just recently in January of this year, a petition signed by 23,058 citizens was submitted to the government of the Czech Republic in an attempt to request increased funding and more transparency in expenditures on education, science, and research in the Czech Republic. A representative of education workers also had a discussion with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education of the Czech Republic, leading to an agreement that teachers' salaries should be increased, in planned stages.

The 500 Windows Campaign in South Africa

In 2008, education activists and local high-schoolers in South Africa formed a group called Equal Education that sought to improve the conditions of local Khayelitsha schools and children's access to quality education. They began with the initial goal of getting the 500 broken windows at Luhlaza School fixed. The group organised petitions, meetings with the provincial education department, interviews with local press and radio, rallies, and wrote op-ed articles for local papers. In the end, not only were they able to have all 500 windows fixed, they were able to obtain a promise from the government to invest 671,000 Rands in Luhlaza School.

Project Literacy on Social Media

An example of a successful social media campaign is Project Literacy, an initiative to increase awareness of adult illiteracy. Activities, events, booths and projects that told stories of adult illiteracy were promoted via videos, websites, and social media. The campaign succeeded in increasing the empathy people have for illiterate adults, as well as increasing the number of people who believe they could have an impact on illiteracy.

 Youth Action for Rights to Education in Pakistan

In 2010, Pakistan passed a law mandating that children aged 5–16 have free and compulsory education. The province of Sindh followed up with the Sindh Right of the Children Free and Compulsory Act 2013, but still failed to enforce it immediately after. A group of young activists, with the help of the humanitarian organisation Plan International, decided to urge the provincial government of Sindh to implement what is already the law. The activists collected 15,000 signatures in a petition, gave talks at conferences, and met with senior policymakers. Finally, in December of 2016, another law was passed to enforce the 2013 act, giving all children in Sindh the education they deserve.

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Lilia Leung

A practising writer and information designer with an interest in technology, education, and people of the world.

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