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Friday 18 October 2019

Children to walk out of school and demand action on climate change

PROTEST: Students Layla McHugh and Katie Magee
PROTEST: Students Layla McHugh and Katie Magee

Lara Bradley

Thousands of children across the country will skip school and go on strike next month - but far from being chastised for dodging lessons, these kids are striking with the full approval of their teachers.

Sixty schools nationwide have already signed up to walk out of lessons on Friday, March 15 as part of a global day of action demanding governments tackle climate change.

Many more schools are expected to join them in the coming weeks.

Last Friday a number of primary schools staged hour-long warm-up protests timed to coincide with similar widespread action across the UK, and 400 children rallied with homemade banners at the Dail last Wednesday.

The school strikes are part of a huge youth movement sweeping Europe which started last August when 16-year-old Greta Thunberg staged a lone climate action protest at the Swedish Parliament during school hours.

Since then a campaign calling for school walkouts every Friday, led mostly by pre-teens, has spread like wildfire on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram under banners such as 'Fridays For the Future', 'Youth Strike 4 Climate' and 'School Strike for Climate'.

The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals has so far not issued any official guidelines on how schools should handle the strike action.

Director Clive Byrne said: "You can't blame children for being aware of the consequences of climate change. Where there is close consultation between students and teachers and an arrangement is negotiated, I think it is acceptable to let children express themselves."

Donabate Portrane ETNS teacher Jenny Stanley, who attended last Wednesday's protest, said: "If we want our students to become active global citizens, we need to empower them to put their knowledge of sustainability and active citizenship into practice."

And it seems parents are backing the school strikes too. Mum-of-three Ellen Hegarty said: "I stand with my children on this. We have 12 years left before climate change becomes beyond the control of the human race.

"My children want to save the future of the planet and I will support them anyway I can."

Ms Hegarty's children were among 380 Scoil Lorcain pupils who confronted early morning commuters in Monkstown, Co Dublin, last Friday morning with colourful banners and a march, while a further 120 children from infant classes staged a mini-march within school grounds.

Scoil Lorcain principal Colman O Drisceoil supported the rally. He said: "On the surface, perhaps it's not strictly adhering to the rules and regulations, but you couldn't help but be inspired by the young people taking this grassroots action."

Flossie Donnelly (11), a 6th class pupil at St Patrick's National School in Dalkey, is helping to drive action across Ireland.

She said: "We've been making banners and writing songs, because we want everyone to know how much we care about our future on this planet and how scared we are.

"Only adults so far have been talking about this, but we want them to hear us that it is our planet and our future they are stealing."

Sunday Independent

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