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In Belgium, talking politics in class is often complicated for teachers



“I don’t know any politicians, admits Agon, 17 years old, apart from that of TikTok. What’s his name again? His eyes are always tired.” “Jos D’Haese?” let’s venture. “Yes, him! He’s really great. I will vote for him.”

In his class, Agon is one of the few to have chosen his political camp. One day when his history teacher, Bram Gilles, opened his class by asking the students if they knew which party they were going to vote for, in the class, you could almost hear the pins dropping. “Hey, come on, voting is mandatory, it’s not an option,” insisted Mr. Gilles. Sighs in the classroom.

On June 9, 16-17 year olds will also have to vote in the European Parliament elections. That day, more than 800,000 aged 16 to 22 will go to the polls for the first time. Even if the first-time voters do not incur sanctions if they do not appear at the polling station on D-day, the Constitutional Court recently ruled that, like their elders, they have the obligation to vote.

A decision which fuels electoral fever in schools. Sports halls are transformed into arenas, “political forums” are set up in canteens, where the political world struggles to win the votes of young people. At the Zavo school in Zaventem, which Agon attends, the history teacher, Mr. Gilles, began giving lessons in political current affairs. Using proposals from various electoral tests (on their sites, most media outlets offer series of questions that allow voters to know which party best corresponds to their own ideas), Mr. Gilles tries to help the boys – the only girl in the class is absent – ​​finding her way on the political spectrum.

The legalization of cannabis is unanimous

These courses are real minefields. The fact is that, in Agon’s class, the origins are varied. Besides Dutch, here and there we hear French, Arabic, and sometimes a Russian or Dutch accent. The diversity of sensitivities and religions leads to a multiplicity of opinions. And Mr. Gilles almost chokes when hearing the sometimes very strong opinions of his teenagers. “How can homosexuals take care of a baby?” said one of them. Or : “People with a lot of money are more important, so they have to pay less taxes.”

Still, the positions of the different parties are not always very clear to young people. “The Open VLD (Flemish liberals) is a very strange party. On the one hand, he defends freedom, on the other, he opposes the wearing of the veil among teachers. asks a boy with silver-ringed fingers. As for the Vooruit socialist party, it caused excitement when it turned out to be against the legalization of cannabisone of the rare ideas that has unanimous support in the class. “Alcohol is legal, and it’s just as much a drug,” we argue. Only one boy is against, “for religious reasons”.

Young people who have difficulty finding their political place

According to several surveys, many young people still don’t have the slightest idea which party they are going to vote for – like in Mr. Gilles’ class. That said, their choices should not differ much from those of the population as a whole: in Flanders, around one in four people plan to give their vote to the Flemish Belang (extreme d

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