TTUTA joins with Education International in embracing the energy and engagement shown by students across the globe in their fight for climate justice. Their determination and commitment are exactly what we need at this crucial moment. Students are showing the leadership, bravery and courage that too many politicians are lacking. We also salute the Young Leaders Project which has included this as one of its debate topics this year.
We hope that governments around the world will be infected by the students’ sense of urgency to save our planet. Climate change is a well-established scientific fact, not a matter of opinion. It should be taught in all schools, at all levels, even in areas and countries that produce fossil fuels. It is an outcome of bad economic decisions and models of development that are myopic and short-term in their projections.
Schools must be spaces for learning about and taking action for climate justice. There should be full and free discussions about the consequences of climate change, as well as of possible solutions, including dealing with the social consequences of slowing and stopping the growth of carbon emissions.
Unfortunately, in too many countries including our own, education is narrowed down to the target of producing a skilled workforce, and curricula and syllabi are driven by standardised testing. Such systems undermine teaching and learning and the purpose of education; they will not build active citizenship or critical thinking or understanding of a wide range of human concerns and experiences.
Civic responsibility must form the core of our educational thrust if we are to commend the future of our planet to the generations to come. We must not incur such a debt to those who will replace us. It is not fair to them to clean up after our mess. Such a scenario would limit their capacity to realise their maximum human potential.
Curricula and teaching and learning materials need to be urgently revised and improved to address the environmental crisis and give all learners the skills and knowledge needed for climate justice.
Teachers must be imbibed with the requisite passion to ensure that children have the skills, aptitudes, attitudes and competencies to undo the environmental destruction wreaked upon our planet through greed and selfishness. Our role as teachers is critical in this battle.
But as important as curricula and materials are, educators must also have the freedom to teach – freedom from political agendas or persecution. Their creativity should be nurtured and encouraged, not stymied or diverted.
Teachers’ professional autonomy is central in the struggle to build a better world; the fight of education trade unions and champions of social justice is also a fight for climate justice and active citizenship. The fight for climate justice must be a moral obligation on the part of all with teachers leading the charge.
Students, by taking to the streets, have rejected cynicism and apathy and embraced hope. Hope is contagious and can inspire others to take charge of their destinies.
The action of students on climate change has not only forced discussions in many countries about that issue, but has also revealed the weak response of many mature democracies to the most compelling needs of the population and the planet. This mobilisation can contribute to and help inspire a process of reinvigoration of the democratic process.
As an education union we stand with the students. We applaud their depth of understanding in this matter. It reflects a social conscience that adults would do well to emulate. By their robust call for urgent, sustained, targeted, collective global action they have demonstrated a sense of civic responsibility that has eluded many developed societies.
We urge governments around the world and in particular the Caribbean region to make the necessary economic structural changes for a just transition towards a climate-resilient and low-carbon economy.
As a region we are cognisant of our unique vulnerabilities to climate change given the delicate balance between development and environmental impact. Many of the economies in the region cannot afford to risk adjustments to fragile ecosystems. The signs are already ominous with marine resources already reflecting its vulnerability to climate adjustments.
Climate change is not only combated through the “good behaviour” of consumers but the responsible behaviour of corporate interests led by strong political will. Co-ordinated and sustained participation of students and workers and their representatives may be the first step towards climate justice.
We stand by students in the demand for urgent climate action and a just economic transition. We also urge other unions and non-governmental organisations to join forces in this fight.