Representatives of the group of Flemish school students who cut classes last week to protest in Brussels against the lack of government action against climate change will be received on Tuesday by Lydia Peeters, the new Flemish minister for energy. On Wednesday, a delegation including Peeters, climate minister Joke Schauvliege and deputy minister-president Liesbeth Homans will receive a group of students, led by march organiser, 17-year-old Anuna De Wever. On that day, the students plan a new protest in Brussels.
The invitation from Peeters will take place at the headquarters of her party, Open VLD, and she explained that the meeting and discussion will be on behalf of the party and not the government which she joined only this month.
Last week, 3,000 students from schools in Flanders took time off classes to come to Brussels to demonstrate their frustration at the lack of action by governments regional and federal. What was planned to be a static demonstration by the Central station turned instead, because of the sheer weight of numbers, into a march to Cinquantenaire and a sit-in outside the European Parliament. No incidents were reported, but police were forced to close some city-bound tunnels. An even greater number of students is expected on Thursday, thanks in part to the widespread publicity received by the previous event.
The Flemish government meeting aims to explain to the young people the government’s Climate Plan.
Meanwhile one school head teacher, writing in De Standaard, explained how his personal opinion was over-ruled by his professional responsibility. Jan Maddens, director of the Pius X Institute in Antwerp, said he personally supported the aims of the protesters, but as far as his own students was concerned, was obliged to apply the rules of the school on attendance. Students are obliged by law to attend school until the age of 18 or the end of the sixth year of secondary school.
Around one in four of his third-year students stayed away from school on Thursday to travel to Brussels for the protest, he said. The school, he said, had respect for what he called “this form of civil disobedience,” but the rules have to be enforced. The students must take responsibility for any sanctions which might result. The students involved will receive a warning, but tougher sanctions may follow if, as planned, the actions continue.