Students themselves must stand for their rights

On the occasion of another Student Day – 4 April – Centre for Civic Education (CCE) points out that the last few years, which have been marked by socio-political turbulence, have opened up new opportunities for students to express a greater degree of activism, which, unfortunately, has been lacking. Thus, Montenegrin students remain, by their choice, on the margins of developments, they do not use capacities and opportunities to address their needs to improve student standards, but also the situation of young people in Montenegro in general.

For example, one of the basic issues that students have to worry about is the model of studies in Montenegro, because the labour market and systemic laws do not regulate the going model. For more than two years, we have been waiting for the adoption of the new Law on Higher Education, which would define this issue more adequately. However, the text of this law, which went through a public debate at the end of 2021, was never adopted by the Government, hence, today we start all over again. Funding models, student housing policies, university competitiveness, employment policy at universities in Montenegro should be the focus of students, but their voice on these issues is not heard. Thus, there was no focus or perseverance in the fight for the urgent adoption of the new law and no advocating that these solutions be tailored not to the decision-makers, but to the students and academic staff.

Though, students had to learn about activism and advocating for public policies of importance to them from professors. The role of professors is instrumental in developing a critical edge among students, and when professors stop being silent on urgent social problems, we will have the basis to speak of a serious academic community, and not about eligible groups of professors with questionable references, with rare exceptions of those who have integrity and scientific achievements.

A particular contribution to this state is made by the representatives of student umbrella organizations, who are both the quietest and the most invisible when it comes to the fight for student rights. They advocate for student rights only until the students choose them, and then, as a rule, they adapt to the decision makers.

The CCE’s research continuously warns that a huge number of young people want to leave Montenegro, and among them the majority are those who are in the education process, which means that the most promising ones often leave.

Higher education institutions in Montenegro chronically record low position in international rankings, and there is no effort to improve transparency, openness, excellence, and impact, which are the criteria by which, for example, Webometrics ranks universities, and which have a have a crucial influence on the overall quality of education.

Montenegrin students should know that no one will solve their problems, rather, these problems will only accumulate due to their lack of interest and inactivity, and perspectives in society will narrow. Therefore, CCE calls on students and academic staff to fight for their rights, to be brave and persistent in that fight, because they have the driving power and knowledge to contribute to qualitative changes.

Students Day – 4 April is marked in memory of the demonstrations organized in 1936, when Žarko Marinović, a law student, died expressing rebellion with his colleagues due to unacceptable university regulations.

Damir Suljević, Programme Associate