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Ditching for a cause

June 17, 2009

High school and college students across Germany are ditching class and going on strike all this week. They're speaking out for education reform - and turning on the heat ahead of the national elections.

Rows of students at desks taking an exam
Students are unhappy about a numer of education issuesImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

More than 10,000 students held demonstrations in some 70 German cities on Wednesday, calling for improved school conditions and funding.

"Organized resistance, instead of individual conformity" was the slogan that leapt off the Internet site created by students at the Technical University of Berlin, who are participating in the nationwide student strikes this week.

Demonstrating for change wasn't a spontaneous decision for the students. They've been planning the event for months and a similar protest was held last year, with around 10,000 participants.

"We decided that this is more than just a school strike, because we are going against the entire educational system," said Lisa, a press officer for the School Strike Committee. "It has to be a strike against the entire educational system. Our demands have not been met and not much has changed, as far as laws go."

The students are demanding smaller classes, more flexibility for instructors' lesson plans and the abolition of Germany's three-tiered primary school system. They also want to get rid of the tuition fees that have been introduced at some universities.

Facebook and rap music

Facebook and Twitter logos
Students are using social media to organize their protests

To spread the word, the student activists have gone beyond the more tradition forms of mouth-to-mouth communication and are also using e-mail, text messages, Twitter, Facebook and other social networking Web sites. They even used Youtube to display videos, animations and short amateur films.

"We had a press conference where we informed everyone about the school strike and the education strike in general," said Lisa. "We wrote to radio stations and school newspapers, because they hadn't put us in a very good light before."

Music plays a major role in the mobilization of a large-scale event like the student strike. Many students have used rap songs to unleash their frustrations and some have posted their songs online as well.

Boost from other activists

Students at a university relaxing outside
Students are still in classes in mid-June, making it a good time for a protestImage: FSU/Günther

In addition to support from their parents, the strikers have found sympathizers in over 230 organizations, including labor unions and Attac, a group critical of globalization. The Green Branch, which is associated with the Greens political party, and the left-wing Rosa Luxembourg Foundation are also joining in on the protest.

It was no coincidence that the strike was scheduled for this week, according to the organizers.

"School is still in session that week all throughout Germany," said co-organizer Oskar Stolz. "The parliamentary elections are also not too far away, which gives us a better chance of getting the attention of the politicians. We're counting on being able to really put some political pressure on the parties."

Arrangements have been made so that students may still attend classes if they choose.

Author: Chamselassil Ayari (km)

Editor: Sean Sinico