DCSIMG

Students get to the heart of issues that really matter

Summer School run by MP Sarah Champion in Rotherham.
Debating whether University fees should be free

Summer School run by MP Sarah Champion in Rotherham. Debating whether University fees should be free

Critics say young people aren’t interested in the world around them. But a group of teenagers in South Yorkshire has been proving them wrong at an unusual type of summer school – in politics.

From debating issues of the day like the conflict in Gaza and university student fees, to campaigning on local bus fares, the passionate students have got to grips with grassroots and international affairs.

“They have been absolutely incredible,” said Rotherham MP Sarah Champion, who ran the programme at her office in the town. “I just wish I knew as much as they now know. They are just so passionate and enthusiastic.

“We had a debate on Palestine and the sophistication of their debate was fabulous. A lot of people seem to think that young people don’t care, that they are not interested in politics and they are just so wrong.

“That’s why I set up the school, to change that misconception.

“They do have strong views and I wanted to physically give them the tools so they can get involved.”

The students, aged from 16 to 24, learned how to create a petition and get signatures, how the media scrutinises politicians and were given presentations by councillors on what the job entails.

Those who wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron included one member of youth Parliament, 18-year-old Hannah Kong.

Not all are hoping to go into politics but do believe it will give them the ability to understand and be involved with decisions that affect them. One campaign worked on by several members – to help young people battling ever-rising bus fares which have gone up from 40p to 70p since 2009 – will even continue after classes have ended.

The bid calls for a £1 journey fare to apply rather than individual tickets for each part of a journey.

Hannah, who lives in Broom and studies at Thomas Rotherham College, said: “I do think politicians can make a difference if they talk to real people and see the real issues then they have more power to campaign on them.”

Ross Taylor, 18, of Wickersley, added: “A lot of young people do think that nobody is going to listen to them and politicians are in it for themselves but there are those who do care.”

Profiles:

Tom Flanagan, 18, of Brinsworth

Why did you want to come to politics school?

“I think young people get a bad press saying they are not interested in politics and I wanted to challenge that as well as doing something in my local area because there are a lot of issues affecting young people.”

What was your campaign about?

“It was about the bus fares rising for young people. I think transport is a key issue, as is education, and there is a lot more than can be done for young people. The cost of young people getting to college and school for a basic education is going through the roof.”

Are young people interested in politics?

“I think it is underestimated how many young people are interested in politics. A lot care about their futures, their education. People are told that all politicians are the same and that puts people off. Young people do want to get their message across and make a change.”

Do you back any party and what do you predict will happen at the general election next year?

“I am a Labour member. I have a very strong feeling that they will get into power but I think it hinges on the Scottish independence vote.”

Humaira Amin, 17, of Moorgate, Rotherham

Why did you want to come to politics school?

“Politics affects how we live and what we do every day so this is a way to look at that. I don’t really want to be a politician, I want to be a dentist, but I still want to know how it affects me.”

What was your campaign about?

“Our campaign was on Gaza and Palestine and because of the rejection of the ceasefire we thought we would take an alternative route by asking David Cameron to speak with Barack Obama to stop selling firearms to Israel. It’s distressing to watch on television and you can’t just sit back and watch it, you have to get involved. This is a great opportunity.”

Are young people interested in politics?

“I think people are involved in politics without even knowing about it, every single day. Not everyone is interested in politics but everyone is involved – I think more people should be interested.”

Do you back any party and what do you predict will happen at the general election next year?

“My family have been Labour supporters but recently some have changed to the Respect party and I am deciding which to choose. Labour have been good but some people think they aren’t doing as much, maybe because of the recent rise in UKIP support. My prediction is that David Cameron may stay in power for this next election but afterwards I feel that Labour will come back and Ed Miliband will be PM.”

 

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