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Danish students ignore international protests

Last week, students around the world prepared for International Student Day – but not in Denmark. Are the Danish students being ignored by the international campaign, or do they just not care?

Student movements from the U.S. to Liberia held their International Day of Action 17 November with demonstrations and flashmobs in the fight against privatization of public education.

The day is certainly not an official ‘Student Day,’ but has been celebrated annually on 17 November since 1941 to commemorate two students killed during anti-Nazi demonstrations in Prague in 1939.

Yet in Denmark, the day was marked with silence, as most students didn’t even know a demonstration was supposed to take place at all. The Chairman of the student association, DSF, was among those in the dark.

The silence was a rerun of earlier this year, where Danish students were conspicuous in their absence from massed student protest against the Bologna process in Vienna.

The unknown day

»I had no idea that it was International Student Day. But we are an essential part of the student movement, the International Student Movement, and we should have been better informed about it,« says Mikkel Zeuthen, Chairman of DSF.

Yet even if students had paid attention to the complaints of their European neighbors, Zeuthen doubts that they would have joined in the fight. He reasons that Danish students have enough daily troubles of their own to be worrying about the privatization of public education.

»I do not know if we would have done something extra if we had known about it anyway. We believe the ‘the students’ day’ is every day. And right now we are concentrating on government reforms of the SU grant system,« he says.

Danish students fight from home

Danish students haven’t always been so removed from the international movement. In 2009, a group of students occupied the central administration at the university and then traveled by bus to Belgium, where they marched in solidarity with other internationals against EU commercialization of education.

They did so as part of the international initiative »Reclaim Your Education,« which the International Student Movement stems from.

One of the organizers of the Danish division of »Reclaim Your Education« was Malte Max Roed Lundén, who studies psychology at the University. He also writes columns a daily Danish newspaper, where he urges students to »find each other« and escape from the »brain factory« universities have become. One way students can do this is to share expensive textbooks instead of paying large sums for the most recent edition.

Use force elsewhere

Lundén acknowledges that Denmark is not very active in its opposition to the privatization which many other students around the world are concerned about.

»We used to travel out and support international demonstrations, as when we went to Belgium. But we’re a bit tired of that type of activism. Now there is more of a tendency to ‘start from where we are.’«

Read article series about Vienna protests earlier this year here.

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