Edvardas Vabuolas: The Voices of the Youth
I have always been a firm believer that students, their opinions, their ideas, their actions, can make a big difference and the fact that they feel listened to will make them more and more involved in decision-making processes. That is why I decided to get actively involved and talk about the importance of school students’ voices.
I believe that one of the main mistakes is to believe that school students are uncritical, naïve and self-centred. Involving school students in decision-making processes at an early age would allow them to develop modern values that would help them to become more active citizens later on. By being considered in these processes, they would experience democratic processes first-hand from a young age, and learn what it means to cooperate, compromise and work together for collective benefits.
That is why I decided to become a representative of these young people, to amplify their voices, first as a board member and international affairs coordinator of the Lithuanian School Students’ Union (LMS). Subsequently, I was elected as a member of the board and monitoring committee of the Organising Bureau of European School Students’ Unions (OBESSU).
As a member of the OBESSU board and monitoring committee, I had the opportunity to actively participate in discussions on global youth issues, advocating for the importance of involving school students in decision-making processes, and trying to be their voice, asking for their opinions when making policy reforms; as I strongly believe that the involvement of school students from the beginning to the end of the implementation process of these reforms would increase the incentive of school children to make the policy successful.
In October 2019 I was part of the launch of a 24-hour European Hackathon, an annual competition that seeks to find the challenges for education in the digital age and create solutions. My role was to help shape the event and make sure that the perspective of the school’s students was heard and valued.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to represent the voice of young people at various events such as, for example, the United Nations Climate Conference.
One of the things I am proud of is when I was appointed a trustee (someone who assumes legal ownership of the assets of a trust and fiduciary responsibility for managing those assets and carrying out the purposes of the trust) in the 100 Million Campaign, an international organisation founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, which works to ensure children’s right to education, against child exploitation. Unfortunately, there are still many places in the world where children between the ages of five and thirteen are forced to work and receive no education. Any help to change this situation is extremely important, which is why I think this initiative is wonderful and I am proud to be part of it. Children are the future and we have to take care of them.
In terms of recent actions, this year, I represented the organisation at the World Conference of Nobel Laureates and Leaders at a roundtable with the OECD Under-Secretary General and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
Every young person has something to say, every young person has an opinion, every young person is good for action, and every action by a young person can make a big change. Make your voices heard, express your opinions and if you want to make a change, try to do it.