Students across Sheffield prepare to join in regional climate strikes
A movement that started as a low-key protest in Sweden will sweep into Sheffield schools tomorrow, as environmental activists call on students to go on strike.
The first ever ‘Youth Strike 4 Climate’ in the UK will see young people from around the region meet at the Town Hall and call for more government action to tackle global pollution. It’s not clear what the turnout is likely to be on Friday; how many young people will be prepared to walk out of lessons and pick up their placards? But one thing is clear – the Extinction Rebellion movement is not going to go away. Their protests are likely to get bigger and will be coordinated to link with those in other countries. In my secondary school, there is not a massive buzz about the climate-based strike tomorrow but the students are definitely talking about it. The Strike 4 Climate has had its fair share of media coverage; it made the front page of a national newspaper on Sunday and was the splash on the First News – is a tabloid aimed at children. Few of the youngsters I’ve been speaking to actually plan on heading to the town hall on Friday – there is an element of this being a little bit too new and risky. But if they find out that the strike was successful and media coverage builds ahead of the next event – on March 15 – I have no doubt that more will join. There are many people within the school who are dead against students being allowed to take part in the strike and have urged senior leaders not to authorise their absence and even offer punishments for missing lessons. Those urging such extreme measures are, without exception, closer to retirement than they are to their NQT year. This is definitely a fight being taken forward by young people. And so it should be. This is about their future, it’s about them wanting to live in a sustainable way, it’s about them seeing the mess that older generations have made of the climate and they’re saying ‘we’ve had enough.’ A number of schools around the country have, perhaps surprisingly, thrown their weight behind the protest. The right-wing papers were up in arms as some headteachers said they would authorise strikers to be out of school – one even suggested they would authorise the afternoon off for anybody who took a selfie of themselves at a protest event. There is a lot to be said for encouraging older students to take part; it is, after all active citizenship and allows young people to have a greater say in their future whilst engaging in political debate. This kind of experience and frontline protesting is often something we talk about in A Level classes but something very hard to deliver on.
Here we have something all young people should take an interest in because it’s going to have an impact on them and future generations. I take my hat off to the people involved; it’s so refreshing to see young people enthused about issues and putting pressure on those in power. Teachers of Geography and Politics in our school have certainly been excited by the prospect of kids around the country taking to the streets in the name of the environment. This international movement had humble beginnings in a Swedish school attended by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old who wants to see the environment taken more seriously. Greta decided to go on strike from her school, initially all the time and then later on pinpointing Fridays as her day of protest. She’d sit outside government buildings with slogans written onto cardboard and started to attract the attention of the media. She’s since gone on to spread her message far and wide, addressing the United Nations and business leaders at Davos, raising awareness with everything she does.
Greta Thunberg is exactly the kind of role model that our young people should have, somebody who takes direct action and has a real possibility of changing the planet for the better. The kids in my school are enthused by what she has achieved. The more young people who follow her lead, the more hope I have that the future is in the capable hands of a responsible generation.