JIS News

As you celebrate International Students Day, I am very pleased to address you.
You are the ones who will lead the message of positive change for the future through the corners of Jamaica. You are the torch bearers. You are student activists and student activism is no new concept to the youth of Jamaica. I was young once and I was an activist. And there is no greater feeling than being passionate about one’s rights, one’s responsibilities for the good of the society. In 1939, 69 years ago, before I was born, students like yourself, felt the need to advocate for the rights of their peers in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Nazi troopers stormed the University of Prague in an effort to close all institutions of higher learning. More than 1200 students were jailed or sent to concentration camps; and nine students & professors were executed without trial. This gave birth in 1941 in Europe to the first International Students Day.
Then in 1973, students in Athens, Greece showed their solidarity in promoting concepts of democracy and anti-government sentiments. This was done through a radio broadcasting network which they developed, garnering much support from their peers. This movement became known as the Athens Polytechnic Uprising. It eventually came to a climax as violent military action was taken against the students on today’s date, November 17, which you are now celebrating.
Now, here in Jamaica, our young people have also fought the fight for education and equal opportunity for all. These have varied from: Peaceful sit-ins, Public marches to Prime Ministers’ Residences and Parliament Buildings, Closure of University Campuses and letters and public statements to Media Houses.
Just a week ago approximately 600 of your peers participated in a youth run through the parishes of Westmoreland, St. Elizabeth, Manchester and Clarendon to show their solidarity against the perpetration of crime and violence in our society. This youth run against crime and violence, prove that our students are still passionate and very alive in quelling the evils of society to dawn a new day of peace in Jamaica. And you will succeed because good prevails over evil. Issues that you and your peers, as students in Jamaica, have successfully tackled to date include: Increases in University Tuition Fees, Adequate Security Presence on School Campuses, Violence in Schools and Strong political statements about the management of resources within the Government Education Portfolio.
As we speak there is much activity on the ground being organized in light of the recent upsurge in crime and violence against our youth. Many statements have been made by students through your National Secondary Students’ Council and by University Students. Commitments have been given by students to play their part in sensitizing their compatriots about ways in which the war against crime and violence can be effectively countered.
I have no reservations in asserting that you as students, the young people of this country, are the ones who will effect positive change in Jamaica. Many past young advocates from our school system have held and are still holding the highest positions of influence in their communities, places of employment, in the churches and worship and even in our political institutions.
This Youth Month is particularly important because we have been inspired by the achievements of many of our youngsters who made us proud through international achievements. For example our Beijing Olympians who showed us once again that Jamaicans and our youth in particular can achieve greatness.
So as you all continue to fight and lobby for your rights while continuing to remember your responsibilities, I urge you to bring the message to each student: “I Can, We Can, Youth Can Achieve Greatness.”
“I will stay with you” as you continue to empower your peers through various interventions. Because as our forefathers and heroes dreamt of greatness for our island, and as you build on their foundation, the sun will peek through the clouds as it does every morning and shines on our beautiful land with you, our youth, at the helm paving the way for our country’s continued greatness. I am confident that you the youth of Jamaica can and will achieve greatness.
Have a blessed International Students Day.