The impetus for the creation of the Commonwealth Students’ Association came from the 17th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Malaysia. Students at that event stressed the need for a greater focus to be given to the role they should play in the decision-making processes of the Commonwealth. It was agreed that the “Commonwealth [should] develop standards for the governing of student bodies and organisations”, making it the remit of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) to support the strengthening of student/youth organisations in all member countries. The CYP has committed to a programme of supporting democratic student movements and helping to ensure they are engaged with decision making about education. A series of consultations concluded that:
- Policy makers should take into account the needs and aspirations of students and help to identify and share best practice on student engagement
- Commonwealth leaders and governments should identify the capacity challenges faced by students/youth and propose steps to support an enabling environment for student organisations to function with independence, legitimacy and respect;
- The Commonwealth should explore the possibility of building and strengthening regional and national student networks;
- A ‘student association’ was necessary and would add value to the Commonwealth.
As a result of the consultations a draft constitution and concept documents were developed for the idea of a student body and as a result the inaugural conference of the CSA will take place from 22 – 26 June 2015, at present its activities are being guided by a steering committee supported by a small secretariat based in London.
A set of values have been agreed, they are:
- Freedom of expression
The aims and objectives of the CSA are to promote:
- Protect and defend the rights of Commonwealth students
- The values of the Commonwealth to students
- Empowerment amongst Commonwealth students
- Extend the reach of collective representative organisations to students across the Commonwealth
- Equitable access to and opportunities to succeed in education
- High quality student experiences and learning environments around the Commonwealth
- Unity among student organisations in all Commonwealth member states
- Decision-making and policy implementation by students on all issues in the Commonwealth
- An environment for student bodies and student movements to build their respective and collective capacities, to freely express and advocate
- Equality amongst students across the Commonwealth
- The spirit of consensus amongst students en route to contribute actively in the development of world youth and students movement
- Sustainable development through pro-active and inclusive participation by students in nation building
- And advocate for University autonomy and respect for academic freedoms, and for a true reform and continued development of education
- And foster the development of students by promoting inter –Commonwealth state institutional and cultural exchange programme and extra-curricular activities
- Technological innovation for education
- Democratic opportunities in the education sector, giving opportunities to everyone to voice their opinion
NUSUK are fully supportive of the initiative to create the Commonwealth Students’ Association and to that end have been involved in the development of constitutional documents. Once established we can work with our colleagues in the CSA to connect on a global basis around the fundamental issues of human rights, social justice, education for all, sustainability and peace. You can find out more about the CSA here.
A team from NUSUK was commissioned to produce a report on the state of student governance in commonwealth countries. This was presented to the 19th meeting of Commonwealth Education Ministers , the outcome was that Ministers urged member countries to establish national student organisations where they do not exist and to enhance support for those places where they do. You can read the report here.
NUSUK were then granted another contract to develop a toolkit that would support student activists and leaders to develop their national student organisation or indeed set one up from scratch. A pilot event, using the toolkit, was facilitated in Nairobi, Kenya in 2016, student leaders from Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania were present. You can access the toolkit here.
You can also access some video interviews with student leaders who took part in the course here.