Socialist Worker

Edinburgh school students shout it out against army recruitment

by Esme Choonara
Issue No. 2067

School students have played a crucial role in the anti-war movement (Pic: Duncan Brown)

School students have played a crucial role in the anti-war movement (Pic: Duncan Brown)


School students from across Scotland are stepping up their campaign to end army recruitment in schools.

The School Students Against the War group in Edinburgh is holding a street event called Shout It Out! in the city centre this Saturday. The event will have music, speeches, stalls and workshops.

Patrick Orr, a fifth year student at Boroughmuir high school, is one of the organisers of Shout It Out! He told Socialist Worker 'Lots of people are getting involved. We have new school students groups in Glasgow and in St Andrews.

'They are coming along to help launch the new national petition calling for an end to army recruitment in schools.'

Figures released earlier this year showed that army visits to Scottish schools in 2005‑6 were up ten times on the previous year.

The New Labour government is spending record amounts on army recruitment. It spent £89 million on army recruitment campaigns across Britain last year – an increase of £3.6 million on the previous year.

Despite this, army numbers are falling as more people have quit than are currently joining. Army recruitment in Scotland is reported to be falling by 3 percent each year.

The backdrop to the falling numbers is the anger over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Even the Ministry of Defence (MoD) admitted earlier this year that 'the recruitment environment is proving challenging at the moment'.

Joining

The MoD claims that it no longer recruits in school, but instead provides careers advice! Many school students don't agree.

Lorna McKinnon, a 14 year old pupil at Bellahouston Academy in Glasgow, said, 'The army say they are not recruiting.

'But when they came into my school last year, they brought a cadet who gave a talk saying that joining the armed forces was the best thing he ever did. He recommended that we join.

'They came into my school with a military helicopter – we were taken in groups to see it. I was never asked whether I wanted to take part – I didn't want to be there.

'We were also taken to the launch of a big warship. There were hundreds of school children there, as young as primary age. Everyone was asked to pray for the ship. It was a horrible experience.'

The MoD is looking for new ways to reach young people. This week it is set to launch a new online teaching resource, Defence Dynamics, which includes 40 lesson plans for a number of subjects.

Teachers are also campaigning against military recruitment. The EIS Scottish teachers' union passed policy at its June conference calling for an end to army recruitment.

The Glasgow committee of the EIS passed policy last week calling on the council to ban the army from recruiting in schools.

Helen Blair, an EIS Scottish rep at Kings Park School in Glasgow told Socialist Worker, 'Teachers should follow up EIS policy by raising the issues in schools and turning the resolution into action.

'At a recent union meeting we passed a motion endorsing the national position that also called for our school not to invite the army in. It was one of our liveliest meetings. It's an issue that strikes a chord.'

Shout It Out! will take place on East Market St, from 11.30am on Saturday 8 September. For more information, go to » www.shoutitoutevent.com


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