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Environment / Schoolchildren to strike in climate protest

SCHOOLCHILDREN in Shetland are set to down their pencils and pens and leave their desks on Friday morning to join a global ‘strike’ to raise awareness of climate change.

The movement is spearheaded locally by three girls under the name of Eco Youth Shetland who want to make a stand and encourage politicians to do more about the state of the climate.

A spokesperson for Shetland Islands Council (SIC) said staff in schools have been advised to record any requests for leave to participate in the strike as ‘authorised absence’.

The protest is part of the Fridays For Future movement started by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg, who sat in front of Swedish parliament to protest against the lack of action on the climate crisis.

The local strike will see school pupils muster outside of the Anderson High School at 11am on Friday before marching to Lerwick Town Hall to meet SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison.

They want the council to follow Orkney’s footsteps and declare a climate emergency – something which around 70 other local authorities in the UK have also done.

Lerwick Town Hall. Photo: Shetland NewsThe march will head to Lerwick Town Hall. Photo: Shetland News

The protestors also want to see the “ecological crisis” added to the national curriculum, while they say the government should do more to take into account youth views in policy as well as reduce the voting age to 16.

“We have chosen to do it this day as students across the globe are going on strike, so we thought it would be an amazing opportunity to finally share our voices with the rest of Shetland,” the group said.

The pupils, who say they have permission from their parents to ‘strike’ during school hours, want to see a “sustainable future where climate change is no longer a major problem”.

They said that the protest highlights “civic engagement and being responsible citizens, which are core parts of the curriculum”.

The pupils point to under 18s not being able to vote in national elections – “so this is the only way we can make our voices heard”.

The trio originally wrote to Sandison, the chairs of the council’s education/families and environment/transport committees and also the head teachers of the Anderson and Brae high schools.

The students had requested that the council showed its support for the cause by 5pm today (Tuesday).

“A number of Scottish councils, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, have given their backing to the movement by considering the action as an ‘authorised absence from school’,” they wrote in their letter.

“We hope you will do the same and support our decision to join this event.”

Over 1.4 million young people took part in the previous Friday strike across 110 countries.

Schoolchildren in Orkney, for example, have already snuck out of school to take part in the protest.

In May Orkney Islands Council declared a climate emergency, stressing the need to reduce the world’s carbon footprint.