The Commonwealth Students Association (CSA) unifies and represents the needs and aspirations of national student councils and other student organisations across the Commonwealth.
It was launched in 2012 at the 18th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (18CCEM) in Mauritius, where student leaders gathered to make recommendations on the current issues in education and strengthen their role in the Commonwealth education sector.
The CSA is supported by the Youth Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat and is led by a steering committee, which is chaired by Joshua Griffith of Guyana.
It plays an instrumental role in the planning of the Commonwealth Students Congress, the largest gathering of students across the Commonwealth. The inaugural Commonwealth Students Congress was held in The Bahamas in June 2015.
The CYC met up with Joshua Griffith, the Chairperson for the CSA:
Q. What are the main objectives of the network?
A. The main aims of the CSA are ‘to promote unity among student organisations in Commonwealth countries; to protect the rights of Commonwealth students and to contribute actively to the development of student movements; and to create an environment for student unions and student movements to build their respective and collective capacities, to freely express and advocate’.
Q. Any success stories to share?
A. The CSA now functions with a comprehensive and complete steering committee (all positions filled). This after much difficulty came to fruition at the 19th CCEM, Bahamas.
Additionally, CSA will soon publish the much anticipated report on ‘The State of Student Governance in the Commonwealth.’ This well-researched and detailed report skillfully compiled data from over 140 student organizations and educational personnel throughout the Commonwealth. A first of its kind, this report promises to be the cornerstone of evidenced based student advocacy and decision making for any commonwealth student.
Q.What is the youth network working on during your tenure as Chairperson?
A. My tenure as chairperson of the CSA places focus on strengthening the partnerships with existing networks while building new partnerships to expand our network support.
Re-enforcing the current structure of the CSA is also high on my agenda even as we strive to be the vanguards for advocating total compliance by all member states to the 19th CCEM communique.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), specifically Goal 4: ‘Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning- adopted by World Leaders in September 2015 at the United Nations in New York,’ will guide our campaigns and advocacy programs especially at a regional level.
Q. Are there any challenges that you face?
The challenges that the CSA face surround financial resources and membership engagement. We are hopeful that the current steering committee will now work assiduously and indefatigably to rise above any challenge that may arise from time to time to effectively and efficiently perform its mandate to its members.
A message for the students of the Commonwealth?
We have called on students across the Commonwealth to study the Report on the State 0f Student Governance in the Commonwealth and to make the best use of the critical information contained therein.
Students must continue to strengthen and support their national student councils. Furthermore, councils must strive to consistently ensure the concrete representation of the views of its membership while implementing sustainable capacity building exercises.
We were recently pleased to have CSA facilitate a Twitter chat on Accessible Education, what are your views on making education more accessible to the youth of the Commonwealth with particular focus on young people in rural areas and those with disabilities.
The value of education to transform societies and to develop the human resource cannot be emphasized enough. Commonwealth countries still struggle to make education accessible to all and advocacy for the rights of students in rural areas and those with disabilities must be amplified now more than ever.
Innovation and political-will is critical for education to become more accessible to persons in rural areas and those with disabilities.
Students must continue to call on governments and other stakeholders in education to ensure that quality education is treated as a priority, being accessible to one and all.