Save Yourselves

Britain's Youth Face a Triple Crisis: Knife Crime, Education and Climate Change

On the day of the second student climate strike, Lewisham's 16-year-old Young Mayor writes about the problems he and his class-mates face.
March 15, 2019, 1:07pm
climate march
Demonstrators at the February youth climate march in London. Photo: Chris Bethell


A sad fact of life in 2019: young people in Lewisham – the borough I represent the young people of – are at risk of being stabbed and killed. From 2017/18, according to the Met, there were 561 counts of recorded knife crime offences here in Lewisham, and that's only what was reported. Consequently, more and more young people are dying on our streets.

When one person is stabbed, it isn't just them who gets hurt; the families, the friends and the communities surrounding the victim are also torn apart. For those who only hear about it in the news, it's become grimly commonplace. New day, new stabbing.


You can listen to people blame knife crime on drill or grime as much as you want, but that doesn't change the facts. That our Sure Start centres are gone. That countless youth centres have shut down, are shutting down or are due to shut down. That the authorities tell us "Knives are bad! Put them down!", but don't offer any meaningful intervention schemes.

Crime most often stems from poverty and a lack of alternatives. That's always been an accepted truth, so why can't people accept it's also true for knife crime specifically? The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts a 7 percent rise in child poverty from 2015 to 2022. This will get worse. A third of all children in Lewisham Deptford live in poverty; that figure is higher in Lewisham East. Consequently, more and more are suffering.

The government’s solution? Criminalising 12-year-olds. Ripping more money from youth services via cuts to local government (Lewisham in real terms has had 50 percent cut since 2010). Ripping more funding from our schools.

This government does not care about us. If they did, they’d know that investing £1 in youth services returns £7 in value. Their only “reason” not do so is “austerity” and wanting to “sort out the deficit and debt”, but hasn't the debt increased by £880 billion under their rule? This is a false economy. Through tax cuts the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.


With a new GCSE system that plunges so many more young people into anxiety and depression, is it a surprise we're so angry? Schools cram three-year courses into two, almost entirely remove coursework and force you to vomit out information on demand.

From 2015, in real terms over £2.8 billion has been cut from our secondary schools. When Michael Gove said he was trying to get us to compete with the education system in places like Hong Kong and Shanghai, it was a lie.

The children of the rich are of course secure. Private school kids get to do easier GCSEs – IGCSEs, while the resources they have outrank ours in every way. Since they're also classed as "charities", they don't have to pay tax. But as has been pointed out numerous times, they certainly don't act like charities.

We are meant to be the future leaders, but we're being slowly ground down. Nelson Mandela once said that "education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world", so is it a surprise that this rotten Tory government is trying to ruin it?


Climate change is very real, and very much here. Wildfires in California, melting ice faster than ever expected in Greenland and temperatures rising in the Middle East. The refugee crisis caused by the conflict in Syria will pale in comparison to what we're set to see from climate change-driven migration.

What is the point of young people's constant struggle to keep afloat if, tomorrow, we're going to be underwater? We only have 12 years to change our course, according to the widely shared 2018 IPCC report. Without the recent strikes, we wouldn't have seen the first Commons climate debate scheduled in two-and-a-half years. Shamefully, only a handful of MPs turned up. Next time, I expect all of them to be there. This is a crisis more important than whether we want to make poor people poor in the EU or out of the EU.

So to Theresa May, whose government accused us of "truancy", I'm proud to say that I was on that first strike and will be supporting today's strike just as intently.


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