A group of 9th graders at a Tampere school have found themselves in the middle of a political controversy after working on a poster for a social studies art project.
The three 15-year-olds took part in a city-wide event to design a poster that highlighted an important social issue.
In this case they chose the plight of migrants fleeing a war-torn homeland, who are faced with a choice: “Towards Finland”, which is represented by President Sauli Niinistö and Green Alliance MP Pekka Haavisto; or “Towards death” which is represented by Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho and his deputy Laura Huhtasaari.
MEP Hala-aho has twice been convicted of race-bait crimes by a Finnish court; and Huhtasaari used evocative anti-immigrant imagery in her most recent election campaign. An August investigation by the University of Jyväskylä also found that she plagiarised up to 80% of parts of her masters thesis.
Former presidential candidate Huhtasaari has taken to social media to vent her anger at the student project, saying the class teacher and school principal are to blame.
She claims that “a number of students” have contacted her to say teachers “incite and encourage hatred for democratically elected politicians”.
School principal responds
At Tampere’s Sammon koulu, head teacher Maaret Tervonen has been swamped with calls from journalists about the pupil’s poster.
“They are studying social sciences, so many are very aware of what’s happening in the world” says Tervonen, shooting down any claims that teachers somehow instructed the students to make an anti-Huhtasaari or anti-Halla-aho poster.
“It is part of Tampere City’s art programme where pupils are making posters with social or political comments, and there are lots of posters on many different social topics, like the environment, for example” she tells News Now Finland.
“They did their own posters, nobody told them what subjects to do their posters about. They wanted to have an opinion on their own subject.”