GEORGE TOWN, June 4 — Education authorities have asked a Penang primary school to show cause for allowing its students to join a global protest against climate change with hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren around the world.
According to a source, the Penang Education Department had instructed the school, SJK (T) Sungai Ara, to submit a report to explain why its students were involved in the afterhours climate change protest on May 24.
“The school has been placed under heavy pressure over this issue; the education department is now investigating the school,” someone close to the school board told Malay Mail.
He said the 11 students from the school who took part in the climate change protest in Bayan Baru here went to the event on their own initiative.
“Their parents took them there under their own initiative, the school didn’t instruct them to do so. The parents are the ones responsible for their own children in this case,” he said.
Despite the students attending the protest after school hours at 5pm that day, the school was still questioned as the students were wearing school T-shirts at that time.
However, he said the school will not take any action against the students as they did it after school hours and they were under their parents’ responsibility then.
The school recently came under fire by Penang Island city councillor Vino Dini Chandragason for allowing its students to participate in the climate change protest while wearing school T-shirts.
She had also accused the climate change protest organisers, Klimate Action Utara Malaysia (KAUM) and Klima Action Malaysia (KAMY), of exploiting underaged children by using them in the event which also included a protest against the state’s Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).
She had called on the police and authorities to investigate the groups.
When contacted, a KAUM spokesman said they had organised the climate change event as part of the group’s many environmental events in line with the global movement, Global Climate Strike, that was started by a 16-year-old student from Sweden.
“On the same day, hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren around the world, walked out of their classroom urging their respective governments to act on climate crisis,” he said.
He pointed out that KAUM and KAMY represent the youth of Malaysia with the aim of raising awareness on environmental and climate changes among the younger generation.
“We did not specifically invite any schools or students. Our events are open to all to attend and join in. We only want to spread out message to push for sustainable development to face the climate crisis for the sake of our future generation,” he said.
He said schools, teachers and students should not be penalised for taking part in the Global Climate Strike that pushed for more awareness on climate change.
According to a statement issued by KAMY, SJK(T) Sungai Ara was not the only school that allowed its students to take part in the climate change protest.
KAMY pointed out that SMJK Choong Hua in Bidor, Perak, organised a climate strike too.
“The whole school together with the students under the supervision of their teachers had carried placards to convey their concerns on climate change and how it affects their future,” it said.
When contacted, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president Meenakshi Raman said it was deplorable that the authorities are cracking down on the school and the students.
“The students were accompanied by their parents. There was no abuse here. If anybody is abusing, it is the politicians who are using this issue and blowing it out of proportion,” she said.
She said it was wrong that the school is being penalised, especially when it is now a Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government.
She said children all over the world took part in the Global Strike for Climate and that the climate change protest held here was in line with the global movement.
UK news outlet The Guardian reported that hundreds of thousands of school students in the world walked out of class on May 24 to urge their respective governments to take greater action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The global movement, also known as Fridays for Future, was inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who had held weekly protests against climate change.
According to the Fridays for Future Facebook page, more than 1.8 million young people from 2,350 cities of 125 countries took part in the Global Strike for Climate on May 24.