Students by day, rebels by night? Criminalising student dissent in shrinking democracies

Millora, Chris and Karunungan, Renee Julienne. 2021. Students by day, rebels by night? Criminalising student dissent in shrinking democracies. Discussion Paper. SAIH (Studentenes og Akademikernes Internasjonale Hjelpefond/Norwegian Students' and Academics' International Assistance Fund), Oslo, Norway. [Report]

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Abstract or Description

Student activists have been at the helm of social movements around the world throughout history. Inspired by stubborn optimism and undying dreams for a just society, students have long confronted dominant social and political norms. They have been actively campaigning for solutions to broader issues beyond the campus and the classroom – from the apartheid and Vietnam war, austerity measures and unemployment, neo-liberal policies and capitalism, environmental justice and climate change, to responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. As students continually prove that they are neither ‘apathetic’ nor ‘disengaged’, their acts and voices of dissent have been met with stringent surveillance, vicious policing, criminalisation, and killings – violent responses that have become more frequent, coercive and intense in light of the current pandemic. Several public and policy discourses have the tendency to frame students as ‘dangerous subjects’ that must be feared, justifying the need for their governance and control. This report challenges these binaries that seem to frame these activists as ‘students by day, rebels by night’ (as in report title) by highlighting the many roles, motivations, aims and approches of student-led movements globally.

Against the backdrop of pervasive social issues and newer ones (such as the pandemic), this report aims to give an overview of the current landscape of student activism in different regions of the world, the threats student activists encounter, and the strategies they use in the face of such threats. Drawing from first-hand interviews with student activists from Egypt, Colombia, Zimbabwe, Philippines, Thailand, and Sudan, this report is a bid to urgently put a spotlight on the alarming oppression of student activist movements all over the world. To do this, we draw attention to the significant roles students have played across moments of mass movements throughout history that have led to widespread policy changes, falls of regimes and shifts in perspectives. By highlighting the legitimate and powerful impact of students now and then, we aim to encourage policymakers, practitioners, academics and agencies to engage in a serious conversation about how to best recognise and protect student activists as defenders of human rights.

Item Type:

Report (Discussion Paper)

Additional Information:

Funded by Norad (Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation) and NSO (The National Union of Students in Norway)

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies



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Date Deposited:

02 Aug 2023 14:12

Last Modified:

02 Aug 2023 14:14


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