A global surge in student activism is being stymied by a mounting crisis in student debt, according to Kiwi author Dr Sylvia Nissen.
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"We've got a problem, and we need to start treating it seriously," she told Newshub Nation on Saturday.
"You end up with two tiers of participation. Some students are able to fully participate academically, socially and politically, but others aren't cos they're working very, very long hours in addition to study or care work to try and make ends meet."
Nissen's new book, Student Political Activism in New Zealand, through a series of interviews challenges the stereotype of apathetic students whose only concern is their next keg party.
"The idea of a student activist is actually a relatively recent one. We only really started putting those words together from the 1960s.
"Nevertheless, it's a really important part of becoming a student, in a way. A lot of the students, when I interviewed them, spoke about how they thought they went to university wanting to be part of that type of activism."
Nissen says the signs of thriving protest culture are everywhere, from the climate marches in New Zealand to mass protests in Hong Kong, but other issues are compounding with debt to hold students back from participating.
"By the time some students get to university, they're very disillusioned with the extent to which their voice matters to those in parliament."
One fix Nissen suggests is lowering the voting age.
"Lowering the voting age to 16 or 15 or however low you want to go, it's a really powerful signal to say that your voice matters."
As for those who say that students aren't old enough to have serious opinions about worldly affairs, Nissen's message was simple.
"It's very hard to listen to what they are saying - to genuinely listen to it - and be able to say that they don't know much about these issues."