Ride for Your Rights Project Visited Kaunas
On 19 August, Kaunas greeted a lively bunch of travellers – the participants of the project Ride for Your Rights, who are taking a long trip through Europe by bike, making stops to meet with local politicians and trying to attract attention to student mobility and other issues relevant to European youth. The meeting near the Kaunas City Municipality was the first of the program’s numerous events planned for two days in Kaunas, including a meeting and discussion with local politicians.
The project, organized by the Campus Europae Student Council and the Erasmus Student Network, is a bicycle trip through 12 countries in the Eastern and Northern Europe, where workshops and meetings with important public figures take place. From 3 July to 15 September, the project is visiting Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Russia.
The participants of the initiative are students from all around Europe who seek to attract attention to the problems of student mobility and socio-economic barriers which are obstacles to achieving peaceful and tolerant society and finding a common European identity. The campaign’s manifesto explains that student mobility is still “socially selective” and unavailable to many students, while those who do travel face problems related to recognition and replacement of subjects studied abroad.
According to the President of the Campus Europae (CE) Student Council and the organizer of the event, Julian Walkowiak, he got the idea for the project while working at the CE Student Council, which allowed him to gain more insight into the difficulties in Higher Education policies and student mobility: “When I realised how poorly co-operations among European universities are actually working and how many problems students are still faced with when going abroad, I thought we could try this joint effort in Europe and make decision makers realise the need for more support by raising awareness with this project”, the author of the initiative said.
Meetings with the members of the European Parliament and other public figures, seminars and workshops on human rights, European citizenship, non-violent action and other topics have been taking place in many countries.
During the cyclists’ visit in Kaunas, the VMU Academic Club of Political Scientists held a lecture-discussion European Citizenship, the speakers of which included Seimas member Egidijus Vareikis and VMU lecturers dr. Tomas Kavaliauskas, Andrius Švarplys and doc. Dr. Džiugas Dvarionas. The discussion was moderated by VMU doctoral student Vytautas Isoda. The language of the event was English.
The initiator of the project Julian Walkowiak explained that these meetings allow to “share ideas between the current policy makers and the future generation of young people who might shape our society one day”. The President of the CE Student Council thinks this is a good opportunity for students to have a productive dialogue with high authorities: “I want the young people to be able to express their needs and requests to those who could make a difference”, he said.
Another highlight of the cyclists’ visit in Kaunas was a trip to the 9th Fort, a memorial site of mass murder. Here, the visitors were introduced to the circumstances of the Holocaust conducted by the Nazis in Lithuania in 1941–1944 and the history of the Kaunas ghetto. The cyclists visited other historical landmarks of Kaunas during the tour as well.
In the two days of the visit in Kaunas, meetings took place with the city’s authorities, VMU management and the youth of Kaunas. In both formal and informal environments, the message of the importance of student mobility in Europe was spread to a wide audience.
The campaign’s organisers also offer high-profile people to ride the Bike of Honour, promoting their project in this way: meeting with politicians and other prominent people, discussing the project’s ideas. Some of the people on the impressive list of this special bike’s riders are the President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek, the German MEP Doris Pack and the coordinator for higher education in the Luxembourg Ministry of Culture, Higher Education and Research, Prof. Germain Dondelinger. Jerzy Buzek commended the project’s organisers for showing “an excellent example of active citizenship”. In Lithuania, the basketball player Mindaugas Kuzminskas took a ride on the Bike of Honour and met all participants of Ride for Your Rights when they were visiting this country.
Walkowiak said he was “looking forward to the incredible hospitality of Lithuanians”. The project’s organizer had also expressed hope that the project will be joined by many students from different countries. “There is nothing more beautiful than riding a bicycle through different countries and cultures”, the Campus Europae Student Council representative stated.
More information on Ride for Your Rights is available on the website of the project.