Anti-war school students held a vibrant and successful street fair in Edinburgh last Saturday.
Up to 150 school students, college students and activists gathered for a day of sunshine, great music, film and politics organised by School Students Against War (SSAW).
The Shout It Out! event was part of the SSAW campaign against military recruitment in schools.
It featured speeches, workshops and gigs – including a performance by Bombskare, one of Scotland’s biggest ska groups.
Nikki Logan, a member of SSAW in Edinburgh, coordinated the Shout It Out! event. “This is the biggest thing SSAW has done – it was brilliant,” she told Socialist Worker.
“The goal of Shout it Out! was to raise awareness of military recruitment in schools. We feel it’s inappropriate for the military to recruit students while they are still studying. Military recruiters target working class families.”
Nikki told Socialist Worker how she had first come across military recruitment in her school. “Our careers fair was targeted by the Territorial Army. When I questioned them about what sort of counselling they provide for traumatised soldiers, I was removed from the stall.
“Two of my friends were recruited by the army at school. One of them was sent to Iraq – now he wishes he had never joined. The other is going to be sent to Afghanistan.” An 18 year old soldier, Ben Ford, was killed in Afghanistan last week.
Campaigns such as Shout It Out! and SSAW tap into and channel the wider anger over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now they are having a pronounced impact on recruitment figures.
Army recruitment in Scotland is reported to be falling by 3 percent each year. A BBC Newsnight poll last week showed that 68 percent of parents would not want their child to enlist.
The EIS Scottish teachers’ union passed policy at its last conference calling for an end to military recruitment in schools. “Students at Boroughmuir High School in Edinburgh picketed recruiters for the RAF Corps in April this year,” said Nikki. “The recruiters have never come back. Our next step is to hand in our petition against military recruitment in schools.”
Shout It Out! came shortly after a marvellous victory for people in Edinburgh against plans by the local council to close 22 schools.
The council – run by the Liberal Democrats in coalition with the Scottish National Party – was forced to drop the plan by a mass campaign that brought together teachers, council workers, parents and students.
“We’re making links with people in the anti-cuts campaign,” said Nikki. “Many of the parents and students share our opinions on military recruitment. A lot of people came along to Shout It Out! from the nursery and school closures campaign.”
You can download copies of the School Students Against War petition against military recruitment from » www.ssaw.co.uk