OSLO – The European Students’ Union (ESU) hopes that other countries will follow Norway’s positive example and introduce a mechanism that will give persecuted students, from all over the world, a chance to finish their education.
The Norwegian government announced at the beginning of September that it will launch such a programme soon called “Students at Risk”. The programme was originally initiated by the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH) and the National Union of Students in Norway (NSO).
“We were very happy to hear about this initiative and we hope that it will give people a chance to pursue higher education, even though they have received an unjust treatment in their home countries. Unfortunately, students can be expelled from universities solely because of their beliefs or opinions. This programme sends a message back to those countries, that the students will be protected and listened to. No one should be denied the right to receive education,” says Elisabeth Gehrke, ESU’s Vice-Chairperson.
Thousands of students at stake
Ayaba Cho Lucas, from Southern Cameroon, is a student that just barely managed to restart his university studies in Europe thirteen years after he was expelled from his university at home and persecuted by authorities. However, he did not receive any support for his studies and therefore had to work night and day and live in unsuitable housing to survive. Thousands of students are in the same situation as Lucas every year but don’t succeed because there is no mechanism in place to support their studies. Lucas told his story to an audience in Norway when the plan was presented, but he was convinced it could give a chance to many students to pursue higher education that they would not have otherwise.
ESU has called for a Europe-wide scheme for students, who have been expelled from higher education institutions on the basis of their political commitment or beliefs, to be implemented. Those students must be provided with the required financial and practical support.
“Much more could be done although we have seen similar initiatives set-up in a few other countries. We are not only giving people education, we are giving them freedom to choose the path of their life that they think is right. We should stand in solidarity with all other students in the world that might not be as privileged as us, to let them know that they are not alone. We do listen and we urge the decision-makers in our countries to shelter those students that are being oppressed,” says Gehrke.
The conflict in Syria demands urgent actions
The recent developments in Syria and a growing number of internally displaced people and refugees around the world show how important it is for policy-makers to react fast to introduce such a system.
“Those students that have been expelled, have had to quit their studies or had troubles continuing their education because of conflicts, or other external factors that they don’t have any control over, need our help. If we don’t act fast, it might be too late. The longer a person’s study process is interrupted, the more difficult it will be for the student to start all over again,” says Gehrke.
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The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit www.esu-online.org. ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.