This month, in the Czech Republic, major historical milestones in the history of the country will be commemorated, but also moments that had significantly contributed to students. On the 17th November we will mark the Day of Struggle for Freedom and Democracy which is celebrated worldwide as the International Students’ Day.
As this recognition has unfortunately not taken place in the Czech Republic yet, we have decided to mark November 17th by awarding Jan Opletal Prize in order to commemorate those to whom this important day really belongs to. Jan Opletal Prize will be awarded to a student or a group of students who have significantly contributed to the development of academic community in terms of academic rights and freedoms for the past year.
The prize will be given out for the seventh time in its history – the last time, in 2012, it was conferred on Zdenek Rucka from Masaryk University for his important activity during the so-called “Week of unrest”, which was organized as a reaction to the amendment to The Higher Education Act which was supposed to introduce tuition fees in public higher education institutions.
Three years have already passed and members of Student Chamber of the Council of HEIs prepares a gala evening again, but this time they also want to link it with many other important activities.
One of them is the Students’ Week which preceeds the 17th November and aims to unite all student activities in the country connected with the celebration of this important date. On the 17th November there will be a march from Hlavka´s Colleges, the place where Jan Opletal was shot by the Nazis, to Žitná street where his memorial plaque is situated and where a ceremony will take place to honor his legacy. The whole day will culminate with the gala evening and the awarding of Jan Opletal Prize.
The most important aspect about the Prize is that it is handed from students to students. Its awarding should be considered a moment of reflection for the whole academic community to allow them to contemplate the meaning of freedom – especially the academic one – these days and the ways members of academic community can contribute to it and keep vital academic values alive every day.
Laureate of Opletal Prize should hence be representative of those values and ought to inspire the whole academic community to uphold them, even in tough times we are facing nowadays. Just like Opletal did himself.