In March 2013, the British Department for Education revealed new draft guidelines for key stages 1 to 3, covering children under 14, that excluded debate about climate change from the national curriculum. Outraged by this decision, 15-year-old Esha Marwaha, a student at the Heathland School in Hounslow and a member of the UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC), immediately launched a petition on Change.org to keep the climate change debate on the curriculum.
In her petition, Esha emphasized that education is vital to fix climate change, which, according to her, is the most pressing and threatening issue today. She added in her petition: “We must keep climate change in our curriculum in order for young people to be as skilled and informed to take on this challenge as we are taking it on today.”
For Esha, climate change is not just about “polar bears” and “melting caps,” but it is about the injustice it causes to people and nations around the world. In a YouTube video calling for signatures, she underscored that there are countries and continents that are experiencing first-hand the consequences of climate change, without being responsible for causing climate change themselves and lacking the solutions to combat this issue. She concludes that these countries are, “paying for the developing nations’ ignorance.”
In a blog for the Guardian written in March, the young activist stressed: “It is clear that we don’t have all the solutions. We don’t know how to stop the ice caps from melting. We don’t know how to reduce natural disasters. But we do have the opportunity to learn and change this. If young children aren’t able to learn about climate change in an environment which allows them to be inspired, how can you ask us to take the lead in the future? The fact is, we can’t. That is why it’s so important so teach us.”
In April 2013, she handed over her petition, signed by over 31,000 people, to Michael Grove. At one point, her petition gained 500 signatures an hour, signed by teachers and students alike.
In July 2013, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, announced that climate will be included in the national geography curriculum. Moreover, the new school curriculum states that children under 14 should be taught to “understand how human and physical processes interact to influence, and change landscapes, environments and the climate.”
Esha proudly announced the victory and expressed gratitude to all those who signed her petition. The young advocate emphasized that there is still “a long way to go. The government needs to include sustainable development in any discussion of climate change. It also has to improve the curriculum so that youth can understand the clear links between climate change and economic crises.” She remains hopeful that these are achievable goals, given that the victory of the climate change petition taught her “how powerful individuals can be when they unite to fight for the right to a better life.”
The campaign also fuelled Esha’s passion and interest for education and government policy. In the future, she says, “alongside A-levels and then university, I hope to be involved with giving young people a voice and getting us involved in decision making.”
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