Climate activism found an unlikely poster child in Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg when in 2018, the high school teen organized a school climate strike movement called Fridays for Future, in the name of environmental reform. Since then, Thunberg rose to international fame and recognition as the face of climate action and environmentalism.
Now, Greta is 18 years old with several admirable honors under her belt: she's won the title of Time’s 100 Most Influential People (the youngest ever), and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, 2020, and 2021. That said, many are wondering if Thunberg dropped out of school in order to pursue her environmental activism — keep reading to find out.
Did Greta Thunberg drop out of school?
At 15 years old, Thunberg started spending her school hours protesting outside of the Swedish Parliament with the support of her like-minded environmentalist parents. She was known for holding a sign that read Skolstrejk för klimatet – which translates to “School strike for climate” in Swedish, according to Business Insider. Her calls on Swedish Parliament for more aggressive action to address the climate crisis eventually led her to start Fridays for Future and ultimately, resort to remote studies.
In 2019, Thunberg took a sabbatical year from school so she could (sustainably) travel the world to spread her message (she sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in a yacht outfitted in solar panels and underwater turbines.) Later that year, Thunberg gave a powerful address at the UN Climate Action Summit in which she said, “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!”
Before taking a sabbatical year – during which she completed remote studies – Thunberg attended a private school called Franska Skolan in Stockholm. She was a student there from 2010 to 2018 before transferring to Kringlaskolan in Södertälje. In 2019, it was made public that Thunberg had completed ninth grade.
During the coronavirus global pandemic, Thunberg paused her travels in favor of virtual activism. This allowed her to end her gap year from school and in August 2020, Thunberg announced on Twitter that she was returning to school for the fall semester. Thunberg wrote, “My gap year from school is over, and it feels so great to finally be back in school again!” It was reported that her return to school was through online classes like most other students during the global health crisis.
Despite returning to school in August 2020, Thunberg has continued her virtual activism via Zoom calls and also has continued to host Fridays for Future school strikes. As of March 19, 2021, Thunberg celebrated Week 135 of the school strike and captioned a photo of her and other activists striking while wearing masks, “We’re striking in shifts to avoid big crowds and keep our numbers as low as possible.”
In a recent interview with PEOPLE, she added, “My hope for 2021 is that we see an awakening when it comes to the climate and environment, [and] that we start to treat this crisis like the crisis it is and understand what needs to be done – understand that we have failed and that we need to take real bold action right now, that we cannot afford to wait any longer.”