Need to change approach to students, as well as more of student activism

The Centre for Civic Education (CCE), on the occasion of International Students’ Day, which is marked on 17 November, points to the importance of improvement of the position of students, but also to the need for a greater degree of student activism in the development of society.

According to the latest official and available data, there are over 25,000 students at the Montenegrin universities. Although this represents a significant number of those who can contribute to both social and political change, this group remains rather invisible and inactive.

According to the findings of the CCE for the needs of the “Youth Study in Montenegro 2018/2019”, young people are partially satisfied with the quality of education system, and great number (62.91%) of theme are fully convinced into existence of corruption in education. Also, vast majority of young people believe that the education system is not sufficiently aligned with the demand on the labour market (74.6%), which is also reflected in the high youth unemployment rate in Montenegro.

On the other hand, there is a fact that students are one of the most inactive social groups in Montenegro and that they do not use their own capacities to improve their position. Representatives of student organizations who are quite passive in the fight for students’ rights also contribute to this. But not a small portion of the cause of this problem should be sought in formal education, which does not develop critical thinking and marginalizes topics and problems that students face. In addition, academic staff with dubious references and numerous controversies in their biographies cannot be role models to young people, nor create critical awareness that is necessary in higher education and science. And there is not few of them and their protectors, as reminded by the plagiarism problems that university managements are extremely reluctant to process when it comes to their colleagues and most often these are inadequately processed within existing legal and ethical system.

Systemic neglect of dealing with young people consequently leads to growing trend of those who have very strong, strong or moderate desire to emigrate from Montenegro. According to the 2016 CCE survey there were 50%, while the 2018 data indicate an increase to 50.7%, and the recently presented Westminster Foundation survey notes further dramatic growth in 2019. Our data also indicate that educational status is closely linked with desire to emigrate. More precisely, one third of students (34%) in master or doctoral studies claim that they have strong or very strong desire to emigrate from Montenegro.

All this calls for urgent strategic and systemic change that would more actively involve students in shaping Montenegrin society so that they would not seek their better future beyond the borders of the state of Montenegro.

Vasilije Radulović, Programme Assistant