GRETA Thunberg looked much younger than her 17 years, a tiny Messiah-like figure in a yellow raincoat, as she addressed thousands of followers at the youth climate strike in Bristol.

By the time she was 16, the Swedish schoolgirl was listed among the world’s 100 Most Powerful Women and had won Glamour magazine’s Woman of the Year Award. She is nominated, for the second year in a row, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Pretty much all I’d achieved at her age was a Queen’s Guide badge and a handful of gymnastics certificates.

While there is much to admire about Greta, I do wonder how healthy it can be for anyone of her age, let alone one so serious and sensitive, to be lionised like a rock star goddess. She cut such a lonely figure, taking to the microphone, as her name was chanted by an army of adoring fans.

But mostly I wonder just how much school she is missing to attend events like this.

With her drive, passion and anger, Greta is a force to be reckoned with. “There will be a time when we will look back and ask ourselves what we did right now,” the teenage activist told the Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate rally. Her rousing speech took aim at world leaders for leaving young people “to tell the uncomfortable truth”.

Greta tweeted that at least 30,000 had joined her 80th school strike. The girl who, aged 12, skipped lessons on Fridays to protest about climate change now finds herself at the centre of a global movement, inspiring strikes by more than 100,000 schoolchildren in over 100 countries.

“Skolstrejk for Klimatet” read the banners at last week’s march; as thousands of other youngsters also took the day off school to be there. Of course they should be angry about the environmental disaster they have inherited and yes, they should speak out. As a teenager, incensed at mankind’s abuse of the natural world, I joined Greenpeace, stopped eating meat and marched at protests. But I didn’t miss school to do it.

There is an unsettling sense of entitlement about teenagers who go on school strike. Education is taken for granted by their generation, as it was by my own, but for many youngsters around the world it is still a luxury.

And for generations before us, it was largely out of reach. In Bradford, at the entrance to The Broadway, there’s a statue of city MP WE Forster that people probably don’t look twice at as they walk past. It was Forster’s Education Act in 1870 that set the framework for a state education system that is still recognisable today.

Today’s young people have much to blame the older generation for. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood,” an angry Greta Thunberg told world leaders at last year’s UN Climate Action Summit.

But without the vision, campaigning and commitment of generations before them, there wouldn’t be the education system they so casually cast aside today.

As International Women’s Day approaches and we celebrate pioneering females like Greta, I think also of women like my grandma, who was working in a carpet mill at the age of 12. School barely registered in her life. Like most children of northern working-class families in the early 20th century, she was put to work with no say in the matter. Was she bitter? She was too busy working and raising a family. But she did tell me, when she was in her 80s, how much she hated that mill and its deafening noise.

Speak out, Greta, but don’t skip school. Girls who came before you didn’t have your choices.