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12,500 Students in Belgium Skip Classes, Demand National Climate Action

About 12,500 students in Belgium skipped classes last Thursday, in what they hope will be a weekly protest inspired by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg’s school strike in Sweden.

They plan to continue marching until the national government releases a “clear and effective plan for fighting climate change,” EcoWatch reports.

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“There is actually no point going to school if our world is going to die,” said 16-year-old demonstrator Mariam.

“The only way for us to bring pressure to bear is to stay away from classes, like workers who decide to strike,” said co-organizer Anuna De Wever, 17.

“Skipping school? No. We fight for our future,” read one protest sign.

Thursday’s march was larger than an initial protest last week, which drew around 3,000 students,” EcoWatch states, citing the Brussels Times. That was partly because the first strike involved only students from the country’s Flemish school system—whereas last week, students from French-speaking schools were also onboard.

However, even the first, smaller march was larger than anticipated,” the U.S.-based environmental newsletter adds. “Students had intended to demonstrate in a square outside the Central station, but found their numbers too big, and instead marched towards the Rue de la Loi and Cinquantenaire. They ended with a sit-in in European Parliament.”

Although schools initially insisted that truancy broke their own policies and the law, some of them are now coming out in support of the protests. “Education has to turn youngsters into mature citizens,” school director Patrick Lancksweerdt told the De Standaard newspaper. “By their actions, they proved that they are.”