On July 12th one hundred students gathered outside of parliament in Cape Town, South Africa to demand from their government an equal education. For the next few days the students are holding a “sleep-in” to ask for better infrastructure in their schools. These young people who are inspired by both the anti-apartheid movement and the civil rights movement declare that they will up-hold this “sleep-in” until the minister of education in South Africa signs a bill called norms and standards. This policy will hold the government accountable to make sure schools have the resources they need for success. (Things like libraries, computer labs, electricity, water, and stable buildings.)
There is an intellectual fire that burns within the individuals who are denied an equal education. This intellectual fire is the inception of the struggle to attain knowledge. Knowledge inevitably leads to more opportunities and ultimately a better life. If education is the medium to achieving the fullness of human rights, then should this not be the priority of our generation? Should this not be what young people march for? Should this not require the same level of sacrifice than movements that abolished slavery, Jim Crow, or Apartheid?
The future of our world will be decided on willingness. As most individuals go on to live freely in systems of capitalism and American dreams, there must be a remnant of people who are willing to start a social movement. There needs to be a peaceful, passionate, and consistent progression to make the world a more equal and less marginalized entity.
Young people have always led movements. But it seems like this generation has not found a purpose for participation. A systemic issue has not sparked young people to be active participants in our democracy. This is unfortunate considering how much of a crisis our education system is on an international level. Youth do not need a cause to enter into a deliberative moment of democracy, we have a cause. However, this intellectual fire must both be realized and understood. Deliberation inside of a democracy can only effectively exists with information and evidence. Intellectualism must be rekindled amongst young people as they struggle for a better life.
Education is the single most important issue of our generation. Yet, we still have governments that choose wars or sporting events over the funding and proper implementation of our school systems.
Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” And in the memorandum that was sent to the president and minister of education in South Africa, it was written that “the struggle for a better world is now the struggle for equal and quality education and it is a struggle we will wage for the rest of our lives, personally and collectively.”
This is not only a local or nation issue. This social movement must be a joint international fight for better lives for all people. This is a struggle to end cycles of poverty, patterns of disenfranchisement, and sustained inequality. This intellectual fire must spread and social movements must be built. There is absolutely no greater time than now.