17 Nov
  • By James Evans

international students day

Today is international students day which is held every year on November 17th. Students are the future of our world, they will become our new leaders, our new innovators and will be the peoples whose collective knowledge and new ideas will hopefully advance our societies even further.

The day can be used to reflect on the history of learning and education which has been around since antiquity. Whether students realise it or not, being a student today is to be part of a diverse tradition started (in part) as early as the ancient kingdoms of Egypt and Mesopotamia (around 5000 years ago), a tradition which includes Universities founded by Plato, Aristotle, the ancient schools of the Zhou dynasty in China and many others. This tradition and history is something to be proud of, it’s a shining example of human progress and betterment.

The 17th of November was chosen to remember the day in 1939 when Nazi forces stormed the University of Prague after students had led demonstrations in protest of the killings of Jan Opletal and worker Václav Sedlacek as well as against the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, and the execution of nine student leaders and a professor without any form of trail.


(The last big demonstration of anti-Nazi resistance in Czechoslovakia resulted in medical student Jan Opletal’s death. His funeral would become a huge protest against the Occupation that had destroyed Czechoslovakia.)

In Czechoslovakia, over 1,200 students were sent to concentration camps, and all of the Czech universities and colleges were forced to close. The event symbolises the struggle of students everywhere but especially those facing persecution and hardship for a wide variety of reasons.

The struggle faced by many people to get an education is something which is very important to remember as it is so often taken for granted in the so-called Western World that almost everyone will receive an education.

“In some parts of the world, students are going to school every day. It’s their normal life. But in other part of the world, we are starving for education… it’s like a precious gift. It’s like a diamond.” – Malala Yousafzai


Though the story of Malala Yousafzai is unique and amazing, the violence and trouble she faced as a student, standing up for her right to an education is sadly still a reality for many people around the globe. Her story reminds us of the fight that is still needed to ensure that everyone, regardless of race, gender, religion or any other distinction, has full and equal access to the wonderful gift that an education is.

Thankfully there are now more people receiving a good education than ever before. However, so many places still lag behind, the most obvious region is sub-Saharan Africa where on average 50% of young people are illiterate. Globally, people in rural areas are twice as likely to not finish their education and there are many other groups who face discrimination in regards to education. Much work must still be done but today at least we can somewhat celebrate the progress the world has made and the wonderful contribution students bring to society.