Send My Friend to School is a UK coalition that brings together young people, politicians, teachers, civil society and the media in joint campaigning to demand quality education for all children across the globe. Send My Friend to School is an organisation hosted by RESULTS UK and we are delighted to share this blog post with you here, featuring two Send My Friend to School Campaign Champions who recently attended the COP 26 Summit in Glasgow. This is a re-post of the blog post ‘Campaign Champions’ reflections on visit to COP-26 2021’.
This year at Send My Friend to School, we had the incredible opportunity to take our Campaign Champions to Glasgow on the 4-5th of November 2021 to participate at the COP-26 Summit. For many of our young campaigners they have been campaigning on education for two years on the ‘Right Climate to Learn’ and highlighting the impact climate change has had on education. The UN Climate conference presented the unique opportunity for our campaigners to engage, debate and discuss with high- level ministers, Delegates from the Global South and other young people also campaigning for climate action. Below are Parveen and Finn’s reflections and insights on their time at COP-26.
We’re lucky to be some of the few youth representatives allowed into COP26. Our aim was to highlight the impact of the climate crisis on global education, and how global education is an effective tool to tackle climate change. The experience was nothing short of incredible, in more ways than you’d think; whilst the experience of talking to politicians was very inspiring, particularly in the case of Shirley-Ann Sommerville and her keen words about amplifying the youth voice in democracy, perhaps the most long lasting memory I will take away is the disparity between inside and outside COP.
Inside, we were expecting to find an abundance of like-minded activists exchanging ideas, an ever more powerful collective pushing for change. Whilst some of this was happening, the change supposed to happen at COP was dwarfed by multinationals on corporate greenwashing ventures. Meanwhile, outside the security fences were the likes of Greta Thunberg, rallying the youth into mass protests and trying to do her utmost to elevate the youth voice onto the world stage.
Within the Green Zone, we were incredibly fortunate to hear the story of Margaret, a small-scale farmer from Uganda who is currently working with the Oxfam delegation at COP. Her story of how life has already changed from her parents and grandparents generation was shocking. She detailed how she is living with the effects of climate change right now, and how things need to change immediately if her children are to be able to grow and harvest the food that they rely on. She said “As I talk now, this is meant to be the month when there is a dry spell, when people are harvesting. But when I called home, they said that there is too much rain, meaning that again, as we talk here, massive destruction in my region”. Inside COP, this message felt lost within the stalls highlighting corporate ventures and seemingly in the negotiations in the detached Blue Zone over the river, which was sadly out of bounds. This lack of discourse between the negotiators and changemakers creates a division that hinders the ability for solutions to problems and causes to be realised – this is something that I would like to help bridge in my campaigning.
We also met Pushpanath Krishnamurthy, one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met, who seamlessly manages to be so positive in the face of the climate crisis that he fights against. Along with Push’s positivity and Margaret’s experiences, we took what we had learnt into our conversations with Shirley-Ann Sommerville, Helen Grant and Alicia Herbert. This technique of learning and then applying experiences was whilst being very enriching, it was also incredibly fun.
COP26 has had a profound impact on me and I will take this experience, and use it as inspiration in my own campaigning going on into the future, thanks entirely to the diligence of John McLaverty, Hannah Nixon and Ayesha Farah at Send my Friend. It’s impossible not to be inspired by Miss Shah, my teacher at school, due to her relentless work ethic to give everyone the best possible opportunity at school. Overall, I would like to thank everybody, the politicians, my fellow campaign champions, activists, etc, for helping me to grow to be ever more passionate about what I believe in. My experience as a campaign champion is something I’ll never forget.