Celebrating 47 years of OBESSU.
OBESSU was founded in Dublin, Ireland in April 1975 by the national school student unions from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, United Kingdom and Ireland. Since then 47 years have passed.
47 years of OBESSU, 47 years of diligently fighting for the rights of school students. Our anniversary represents much more than a date on a piece of paper or a registration certificate; it signifies that school student unionism stands firm and strong in the face of all challenges and rises above all political, economic, and geographic attempts to derail our efforts to fight for student-centered, high-quality, accessible, and inclusive education throughout Europe and the world. This is a crucial message to express now, more than ever: school students are resilient and ready to fight any struggle when there is unity, understanding, and when we are part of a collective plan to transform the world we live in, beginning with education institutions.
Standing on the shoulders of the school student activists that have come and fought before us, we in OBESSU, believe - now for 47 years - that we are stronger together! As the platform of cooperation between European School Student Unions, our main goals have not changed in its principle. Still we demand, at every occasion, that every decision about education, but also beyond, has to be made with school students, as we know our realities and know what change is needed.
And change is needed - urgently! We are living turbulents times - and witnessing crisis of education, health, climate - and with the rise of authoritarian tendencies in Europe and the world the need for democratic structures and inclusive, state-funded, quality education, accessible to everyone, is more obvious than ever.
Many things have transformed throughout the time, the way of communication, the tools, the people active - but standing in solidarity has not changed a bit.
The relevance is clear: we need OBESSU for another 47 years and longer.
‘’I have met OBESSU on a local level: After being inspired by the International Officer of my home-organisation, I hosted a ‘’Seeds of Integration’’ event in 2018, in a county of Austria, that borders Switzerland. A member of the Pool of Trainers from Switzerland came to facilitate, and I realized that even though I have lived so near Switzerland, I never even connected with a School Student Activist from there.
And this is what OBESSU is about for me: Connecting School Student Activists and its Unions, to then foster change together, e.g. through building awareness, as with the workshop back in the days. To rethink borders and build bridges. Especially after attending international events, I fell in love with the Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions - I was (and still am) looking forward to every event, because I knew that I was able to bring back so many realities, knowledge, innovative methods, ground-breaking ideas and friendships.
However, the bright sides of OBESSU are based on serious matters: on the presence of injustice. The challenges in Europe and the World require change. And as education is a key-changemaker, and students are still being constantly overlooked, we need international solidarity more than ever. We need to fight together for quality, free, inclusive education accessible to everyone. Sadly, we are not here yet - hopefully in 47 years we are nearer. Together louder, together stronger. ’’ - Alex Seybal, OBESSU Board 2020-2023
As Alex pointed out , OBESSU has always strived to be a place where school student activists from all over Europe could meet, to inspire each other and exchange best practices. When school students from all around Europe come together our voices are louder, and our message stronger.
“Getting to know an organisation that brings thousands of students together from all over Europe was definitely a life changing experience. OBESSU is a magical place I got to know when I was fifteen years old, at that age I could not even imagine how amazing it would be. I went to my first event in 2019, it was the Summer School in Bosnia-Herzegovina focused on peer education, a topic I hadn't even heard about before. This event changed my life completely and since that moment OBESSU is one of the biggest parts of my life, a part of it that brings up one of the best parts of activism, bringing the voices of students from all across Europe. OBESSU has been working on students' rights for 47 years. Since the beginning of the organisations the main goal was to represent students and bring their voices to the table where decisions were taken. It was a big step to finally gather students from all over Europe. Having an organisation who represents students from Europe was a big challenge and no one said it would be easy. Nevertheless, students were never scared of challenges, they wanted a change and they were willing to take any risk.These 47 years meant the world to students, they were capable of seeing real change made by peers and by themselves. Having OBESSU is having a place to go when you want to be heard.” - Caridad Alarcon, OBESSU Board 2021-2023
Caridad highlights the importance of our participants in creating the OBESSU environment, and the huge debt of gratitude we have towards our Members for helping in the building and expansion of OBESSU into the organisation that it is today.
“For me, my first OBESSU event in Hlohovec, Slovakia in 2018 was a life changing one. I had the opportunity to meet with school students from across Europe, and this is where I learned that the difficulties and problems that we face as school student activists are not problems and issues that we must face alone. I often think of the founders of OBESSU and how proud they must be, when looking at how far the student movement in Europe has come in the last 47 years. I will always have immense gratitude for the school students who, 47 years ago, came together and decided to create the OBESSU that we all know and love. But while reminiscing about the past and the amazing things OBESSU and our Members have accomplished, it’s also important to look toward the future and to think of all the things we still have to do, and the battles we must continue fighting. I, for one, have complete faith that this Board, and the future Boards of OBESSU will not rest until these battles are fought and won. Every school student deserves to have access to safe, accessible, inclusive, and quality education, these are the core values of OBESSU and we know for sure that in 47 years from now, OBESSU will continue to hold these values'' - Nadine Toye, OBESSU Board 2020-2023
Nadine shows the important role that the founders of OBESSU had and therefore OBESSU alumni. how much we appreciate the work that they have done, just as we appreciate those who will come after us and fill these huge shoes of school student representation in Europe.
“If there was just a single OBESSU-related experience that had a profound effect on me, it would have to be the Regional Exchange of Balkan student unions in Belgrade. The very fact that merely thirty years before, the protests against Milošević marked the beginning of what would later become one of the most heart-wrenching atrocities, and now, thirty years later, the youth from all across the region is determined to mend the ties, and to work together for a shared future, having cast aside their divides, is inspiring. That is what I would like to be OBESSU's guiding principle in the future. To show that the youth has no respect for the squabbles of nation-states, which amount to nothing but lines drawn in sand. To show that through just dissemination of education can the free institutions be maintained and solidarity spread globally with no regard for artificial walls and borders.” - Petr Franc, OBESSU Board 2021 - 2023
OBESSU has always offered the opportunity to engage in student activism without the barriers that would normally exist. A space for school students to co-exist and to coordinate, without barriers and without borders impeding on that coordination.
“When I think of OBESSU, I think of a network of amazing people, organizations, activists, who work tirelessly to ensure that all school students have access to quality, inclusive education. In OBESSU, our core slogan is “Nothing about us, without us!” - and I think that sums up very well what our mission has been for the past 47 years - having educational systems which ensure that school student’s voices are heard and listened to, as a central part of school governance. For me, OBESSU is more than just an organization I happen to work with - it is a permanent source of knowledge, inspiration and driving force to keep fighting the good fight, for the rights of my peers. Of course, as an organization we face multiple challenges, in the era of shrinking democratic spaces, of disinformation and lack of civic engagement. However, regardless of what comes our way, us and our member organizations continue to work together for a better education for all. This is what has kept us going so far, and will continue to do so for the years to come.” - Rares Voicu, OBESSU Board Member 2021 - 2023
With our constantly growing and evolving membership and our amazing secretariat by our side there is nothing that can stop OBESSU from continuing the fight for students rights.
Happy Birthday OBESSU!
Here’s to another 47 years of school student activism across Europe and the world!