My name is Jean Paul Brice Affana, I am originally from Cameroon, a country in Central Africa. My last name ‘’Affana’’, means Forest. I am a climate and environmental activist and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’s professional. Back in 2008, I co-founded a youth-led NGO named ‘’Vital Actions for Sustainable Development’’ which contributes to eco-citizenship and other development goals. I tend to justify my engagement in climate action and the SDGs with the original meaning of my last name.
While I understand that the role of an education minister is to ensure that children attend school in a regular manner without interruption, I do not think that threatening the children who strike for their future and the future of the generations to come is the best way to get them back to school. Therefore, I do not agree with the letter that NRW Education Minister Yvonne Gebauer sent to schools in this regard. You cannot force the children striking to return to school even if you want to apply on them disciplinary proceedings up to expulsion. The reason is that this is not just a simple strike. It is a global children-led movement about the future of our planet and our survival at a whole. It goes beyond running a ministry or administering a school. That is why children are striking because it is the only way for them to get the attention of those able to adopt and implement immediate solutions against climate change. I am sure that if the children would have other ways to tackle the issue, they would not strike and would be in schools. Because they care, maybe they would be doing other things that will contribute to a solution.
I do not know how far I can believe in what Angela Merkel stated in support to the strike movement. It is so difficult to know how much we can trust politicians, especially because they got us used to the fact that they can spread false promises or ‘’sell’’ us some in order to get our support or votes. To show her support by joining action to her words, Merkel could for instance meet in person with the young leaders behind the „Fridays for the Future“ demonstrations and discuss with them their demands. This will send a strong message to other world leaders across the globe where children are striking. Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, met with Greta Thunberg and other children when she was in Paris. That was a good gesture from him that the voices behind the movement are taken serious and valued.
These critics do not surprise me, I must admit. I am aware that many politicians and even more citizens think that climate change does not exist, that our planet is safe, and that human activities do not contribute to the adverse effects of global warming. The reality, unfortunately, is that we are in a race against time! A race that has started long ago, without the implementation of fast and long-term solutions. Where are we today? Children, our children, have to skip school to make noise and call for urgent action. Something that their parents were supposed to do on their behalf long ago. I do not agree that climate change is a topic for adults or decision-makers only. Never will it be – and nobody should be silenced when it comes to finding common solutions to emergency! We cannot ask our children to shut up when we are/were not able to ensure that they will always live happier in a safer climate. I remember that more than 300 people died, many of them students, when the ferry Sewol sank in South Korea in April 2014. The drama happened because the teachers told the students to remain sited and to wait on their places for the adults to save their lives. Hundreds of students did not make it out of the ferry that was sinking because they listened to those who, at the end, did not save their lives and did not ensure their survival. Today, we ask the same to our children when they leave schools on Fridays to strike for their future. We ask them to shut up, to sit down and to let us fix what we were not able to fix for many decades. Is that a fair and honest statement? I do not think so!
Picture from Greta was found here at RFI.fr