Toronto Public Library Homepage

This page has been archived and is no longer updated.

« Previous | Main

November 17: Celebrating International Students Day

November 17, 2015 | John P. | Comments (0)

Global Call for Action

On November 17, many people celebrated International Students Day. Students from all over the world stand united in arguing for freedom of movement, freedom to study, and freedom to live in dignity. The Global Call to Action in 2015 urges governments all around the world to “guarantee the right to study to everyone regardless of their socio-economic, cultural, religious and sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.” The campaign can be recognized on Twitter and on Facebook by #free2learn and #free2move within countries, continents, and all around the world itself.

Why November 17? Nazi troops stormed the University of Prague on November 17, 1939 following the killing of Jan Opletal, the invasion of Czechoslovakia by German troops, the execution of nine student leaders, more than 1,200 students sent to concentration camps, and the closure of all universities and colleges in the country by the Nazi invaders. International Students Day was first acknowledged on November 17, 1941 in London, England by the International Students’ Council (that included many refugees as members) and continued by the International Union of Students. The latter group has been lobbying in conjunction with European national student unions and other organizations for International Students Day to be officially recognized by the United Nations.

November 17 gained additional resonance as International Students Day when students at the Athens Polytechnic went on strike against the governing military junta in Greece in November 1973. A tank crashed through the blocked gate of the Athens Polytechnic and several students were injured in the protest, despite pleas from the protesters for the military not to fight with them. The fiftieth anniversary of the 1939 events in Czechoslovakia in November 1989 began with a peaceful attempt to commemorate International Students Day in Prague with a mass demonstration organized by independent student leaders and the Socialist Union of Youth. Riot police and supporting troops beat many of the protesters and one person was left dead, purportedly a student who was an undercover agent. Many students were not aware of this, believing that a fellow student had been killed. A strike organized by students and theatre actors became part of a chain of events that contributed to the fall of the communist régime in Czechoslovakia and that country’s subsequent democratic partition into two countries: the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Toronto Public Library collections offer the reader insights into seemingly normal people who can do extraordinary things when circumstances demand. It seems rather fitting on International Students Day to highlight the exploits of some students:


The boys who challenged Hitler Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club

Book – also available in eBook and eAudiobook formats.

Denmark was under Nazi occupation for much of the Second World War. Fighting back was not always easy but eight teenage schoolboys from Aalborg Cathedral School in Jutland, led by Knud Pedersen (1925-2014), organized the Churchill Club (Danish: Churchill-klubben) to carry out 25 acts of sabotage against the Nazi occupiers before being arrested in May 1942. Even after arrest, members of the Churchill Club were still able to carry out sabotage activities at nighttime.


A noble treason the story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose revolt against Hitler vs the revolt of the Munich Students against Hitler


Hans and Sophie Scholl German resisters of the White Rose



Sophie Scholl the real story of the woman who defied Hitler



German siblings and students Hans Scholl (1918-1943) and Sophie Scholl (1921-1943) grew out of their membership in the Hitler Youth and became angry at the savagery of Nazism. Following the arrest of their father in 1942, Hans and Sophie organized a non-violent protest group called White Rose (German: Weisse Rose) whose membership included fellow students Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf, and philosophy professor Kurt Huber. The group was able to write, print and distribute five leaflets criticizing the evil ways of the Nazi régime and urging resistance from German citizenry. In attempting to scatter the sixth pamphlet from a balcony at the University of Munich, a custodian of the university (and Nazi sympathizer) reported Hans and Sophie Scholl who were subsequently arrested (along with Christoph Probst) and found in possession of handwritten material corresponding to the leaflets. Following extremely physical interrogations and an appearance before the notorious (Nazi) People’s Court, Hans, Sophie, and Christoph were all executed by guillotine in Munich’s Stadelheim Prison on February 22, 1943. However, a copy of the group’s sixth leaflet was smuggled out of Germany and Allied aircraft dropped millions of copies of the White Rose’s leaflets over Germany in spring/summer 1943.


Free the Children a young man fights against child labor and proves that children can change the world

Book – also available 

in eBook format


Power of We Day moving the world from me to we



Living me to we the guide for socially conscious Canadians



Canadian Craig Kielburger (1982- ) founded the charity Free the Children to combat global child labour with his older brother Marc Kielburger (1977- ) when Craig was just twelve years old, having read a report of a murdered 12-year-old boy named Iqbal Masih who had been forced into child labour at age four. Kielburger researched the topic of child labour for school and he and several of his classmates started Kids Can Free the Children (which subsequently became Free the Children). The charity supports a program called We Schools in conjunction with 10,000 schools in North America and the United Kingdom. We Schools supports teachers and students with curriculum and educational resources along with suggested action campaign ideas. Students learn about the causes associated with hunger, poverty, and the lack of education and what they as citizens can do to help by planning one local and one global action to improve the world.

In 1995, Craig Kielburger accompanied children’s rights advocate Kailash Satyarthi in Southeast Asia to return child labourers to their families after Mr. Satyarthi had freed them from a carpet factory.

The Kielburger brothers also founded a social enterprise called Me to We (half of whose profits go to Free to Children) that encourages people to foster social change through consumer choices.


I am Malala the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban

Book – also available in eBook and Large Print Book formats.

Women’s rights and education advocate Malala Yousafzai (1997- ) is a Pakistani-born activist fighting for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize Laureate. Malala championed these issues in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan until an assassination attempt by the Taliban on a school bus on October 9, 2012 brought her close to death. She recovered enough subsequently that she and her family relocated to the United Kingdom for rehabilitation and residency. Malala has continued her advocacy work for education and women’s rights, received honorary Canadian citizenship in 2013, and was co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with children’s rights and education advocate Kailash Satyarthi.


The Albert Campbell District Blog is an online resource and place where you can access information related to the Albert Campbell, Eglinton Square, McGregor Park, and Kennedy Eglinton branches. It will feature reading recommendations, information on new titles and resources in the branches, special events and programs, as well as other information of interest to you. We encourage you to make this blog an interactive space by replying and commenting on posts and by subscribing to the RSS feature which allows you to receive blog updates without having to search for them.