45 years of OBESSU, 45 years defending school students' rights tirelessly. Our anniversary is much more than a number on the paper or a registration certificate, it means that school student unionism stands strong and tall in front of all challenges and rises above all the political, economic or geographic attempts to stop our work to fight for student-centred, quality and inclusive education all over Europe and the world. Now, more than ever, this is a key message to convey: school students are resilient and ready to fight every battle when there’s solidarity, understanding and when we’re part of a collective plan to change the world we live in, starting from education systems.
“On my way to my first OBESSU event, in Budapest in 2015, I had no clue where I was going. I was excited because I had always been interested in traveling and getting to know new people. What I didn’t know was that OBESSU in itself is so much more than traveling and new people. When you think about it, if we didn’t have OBESSU already, we would all agree it makes sense to make up an organisation like that, right? Thankfully, someone thought about that already 45 years ago. To me it’s quite amazing that 45 years ago in a world without the internet and with even fewer EU-member states, school-student representatives already thought about each other and agreed that there needed to be a European umbrella organisation. In case they wouldn’t have, we would now have a continent with way less understanding of secondary education, and I would argue, with way less and way worse policy supporting the developments of education systems in Europe. As a very impatient person, I personally sometimes find it hard to visualize all the progress we’ve made. But the birthday of OBESSU is always a good occasion to look back and see how far we’ve come, together. I do really believe that all of the member organisations have benefited from each other, and that European initiatives have benefited from the input of OBESSU. That is so cool to know, and definitely makes me happy I came a long on this journey back when, even if I didn’t have a clue on what this was all about!” - Bicca, OBESSU Board 2019-2021
In 45 years we met, we fought, we created, we discussed, we trained, we convinced policy makers that student voice matters but more than anything we built a big community. A community of brothers and sisters, of organisations and of innovative thinkers that shaped our organisation, its past and its future.
“When I became International Officer of my School Student Union, RSM Italy, it wasn’t part of OBESSU and we were in contact with just a couple of Member Organisations at that time. Then we started working to understand what this great international project was, and I will never forget my first event, the GA 2016 in Amsterdam. Meeting great activists, talking as peers with people from everywhere in the continent, that were sharing our fight for school student rights and who were welcoming us, completely new people, as we were their brothers. This feeling, this Solidarity, convinced me that entering OBESSU was definitely the right choice for my Union, and luckily this feeling was immediately shared by the rest of RSM. I would never have thought of being part of the Board of OBESSU, elected together with my roommate of Amsterdam, Edvardas. The trust given to my ideas, even though as an International Officer I never had the right to vote, showed me that the Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions is much more than a Non Governmental Organisation. OBESSU is a real political family. And this feeling, that became consciousness, is getting stronger at every event, every meeting, every time we achieve our goals or we fail, because we do it together. Because we are stronger together.” Giuseppe - OBESSU Board Member 2018-2020
With Giuseppe’s words we celebrate our members, independent school student unions, first and foremost, as without them OBESSU would not be what it is right now. OBESSU is nothing but an empty home until membership comes together and fills it with ideas, messy rooms, solidarity and incredible solutions to make education systems all over Europe more equitable and accessible.
“This September will mark a five-year anniversary since I joined student activism. Throughout the time, I have seen students defending their peers’ rights on school, local, national and – for the past two years – international level. Whilst work in all of them was unique, there is something authentic about OBESSU: from the day one it forms a strong sense of belonging, and you are exposed to starkly distant personalities, who gradually turn to close friends. Little do you understand at that time how the organisation operates – you see students from all over Europe coming together and arguing over ‘what are the student interests?’ and you acquire an impression that what is being done actually matters. Surely, the extent of ‘it matters’ can be questioned – I suppose that is due to the nature of NGOs – and to be frank I sometimes find questioning it myself. However, the moment OBESSU is invited as an expert of school student matters, and treated with respect, and listened to, that is when you realise that without OBESSU there would be no one to preserve school student voice authenticity, and there would be no one to uphold school student rights. Wish you a truly happy birthday, OBESSU.” Edvardas, OBESSU Board Member 2018-2020
Edvardas’ words couldn’t pass on the message more clearly. With his words we want to celebrate our community: alumni, our past participants and all those who engaged with OBESSU activities. Our policies would have not existed without you all. If the work that OBESSU does really matters it’s because of the passion, the enthusiasm and the commitment of all those who came across it.
“I remember becoming a school student. I was 15 and so eager to learn about programming and starting my future somewhere in the tech world. At the time I didn’t really know or care for student activism, I probably didn’t even know what activism in its full sense is and how important it is for us. But I was lucky… by a big coincidence, I entered the world of school student activism and my life was forever changed. The work I now did opened so many doors for me - from being an IO at OBESSU, becoming a President of DOS, to giving inputs and speeches to stakeholders. My first OBESSU experience started with being a member of a Working group on Global Citizenship Education, and I am more than happy that today, two years since that trip to Lisbon, I am still working on the portfolio of GCE, this time as a Board member of OBESSU. In these few years, OBESSU has taught me a lot, but most importantly, it showed me how much we can achieve when we are fighting for our rights and just how much voice we have when we stand together. It has also taught me a lot about myself and allowed me to work on portfolios I never would have imagined myself in and lead me to truly inspiring people I now call friends. So thank you OBESSU, thank you to the people that built it and to the people that are making it what it is. Happy birthday from your grateful board member!” - Lucija, OBESSU Board 2019-2021
We take the opportunity given by Lucija’s words to celebrate and thank all the student activists who participated in Working Groups, task-forces, Pool of Trainers and preparatory teams and who made our events the special place that they are. Learning and co-shaping policy in intercultural teams in a challenge we learnt to overcome and this would have not been possible without all of you!
“It is said that everything is with a reason and everything that happens in our lives is meant to be: the people you meet, the decisions you take, the bridges you build and all the epic failures you’ve been through. As much now as never in my life, this dictum can express my journey in OBESSU, as all the experience in the last almost two years proved to me that it was meant to be. When I first started to be involved in CNE, I had never imagined that I would ever be in the position of Board member, as this was perceived as something too far or too hard to be. Time has passed and the lighthouse appeared to be closer and closer and so was the ship, reaching the final destination made me realize that the journey in OBESSU is one the most transformative experiences of my life. I take pride in the work I'm doing and I reckon those unforgettable moments and this fast-paced quest for solutions made me realize how small I am and how big of a difference needs to be made. Our mission as catalysts of change never ends so do the problems in education, but we are more than ever ready to tackle them and actively participate in the contribution of a better world, better education- for all.” Adrian - OBESSU Board Member 2019-2021.
With Adrian words we would like to thank all the Board Members engaged in OBESSU in the present and in the past. Steering the work of such an organisation can be challenging at times and it requires a passion and dedication that few people have. All the unremunerated time Board Members put in OBESSU make it special and unique and there’s few words to add on that.
Happy birthday, OBESSU!
We want to toast to many years of fights to come, because we will never give up on our ideals and on achieving a more just, accessible and equitable education, we owe it to the past, the present and future of our organisation and its members.
Let’s celebrate together by sharing memories, ideas, challenges and coming as a strong online community with the #OBESSU45 hashtag.