Every single day there are millions of small invisible acts which make our world better. These operations are usually hardly even noticed by the local media in each city, but they are crucial. These acts can be as small as someone providing a smile while passing a sad face on the sidewalk or young people organizing them selves to make their education system better. Every once in a while, they’re acts (usually and unfortunately invisible to most) that become visualized through the iris of a public eye. When this happens, small acts of resistance become magnified and things like “hope” and “change” become possible.
Last week one of these small acts took place; only this was one of those few times where voices that are traditionally ignored, became audiblized. Students who are tired of living in substandard school conditions took a stand and held a sleep-in at parliament. They were dramatizing their issue so people would finally listen to their experiences as experts in their own school system.
On the second night the students did not have permission from the city to sleep outside, so when the afternoon came around the police declared that they were holding an illegal gathering. The students calmly, respectfully and firmly told the police that they were not moving until the government insured that they would be given better opportunities in their school system.
The students sang songs about the “poor and painful” education that they were receiving. It was inspiring to hear their voices, but it was encouraging to see that these young people strategized and got their voices magnified across the country. Of course when the media heard that the police have threatened to arrest students that are not moving in the name of their education, they came flocking to the seen with their reporters and video cameras.
I was honored to train this particular group of students in a workshop on civil disobedience a week before this event took place. We also did training sessions on the realities of education in their country and on different non-violence movements that occurred throughout history. The students were ready to go to jail if they had to. They were willing to sacrifice their freedom for the injustice and inequalities that took place in their school system. When people are willing to sacrifice comfort for justice, these small acts of resistance not only become magnified, but they become vessels that have the ability to change the hearts and minds of all those who turn their attention to the issue.
The police did not arrest the students. Instead, the police decided to sue the organization for violating the 1994 gatherings act. This act was created in the time of apartheid and needs to be challenged in the constitutional courts. In the mean time, this is a small victory for all of those individuals who will continue to commit these small invisible acts of resistance. These acts make this world more bearable for the individuals in society that didn’t inherit privilege from controversial history.