It's gratifying to be able to share my perspective on an event that attracted schools from wards throughout the Louis Riel School Division (LRSD). When students come together in solidarity, advocacy or even in protest, it is important for us as a locally elected school board, and a community, to pay attention, listen, and be open to conversation.
In the lead-up to the Global Climate Strike on September 27, an event that drew an estimated 10,000 participants, there was much talk about the appropriateness of students leaving school to participate. The conversation changed, somewhat, when people were reminded that learning happens outside the four walls of a school and climate change education is already a part of the public-school curriculum. Not to mention, it was students who were asking to participate, not teachers telling them they should.
Indeed, it is our learners and community youth that are demanding that climate change conversations take place. They are the ones who have attended school board meetings asking for change, and who are holding decision makers accountable for what happens next.
As I stood in the crowd on the legislative grounds, trying to locate the LRSD students I knew were there, I was also listening to the voices at the microphone and around me. I was impressed with the articulate and well-thought out messages they were sharing. While I had a good chuckle at several very puny and clever signs, many others reminded me of why we were all there, as seen through the eyes of both young and old. When I was able to locate some of our elementary school groups (thank goodness for school colours!) and talk to the students, it became very clear very quickly that these kids understand the climate catastrophe we are in. In their own way and at their own level they can articulate what's at stake, what worries them and what needs to change. The sense of urgency in their messages was palpable.
Social media posts will show the significant number of LRSD schools that participated in the Global Climate Strike and the messages students carried at the legislative grounds, in school communities or in classrooms. On September 27, as they do on a regular basis, students inspired me to do better and in doing so they embodied the vision the school board and LRSD senior leadership have for everyone in our division: to excel as caring, confident, capable, and resilient life-long learners who contribute to a democratic and sustainable world.
--Sandy Nemeth, Louis Riel School Board Chair