The Students of BC Want their Voices Heard!
Across BC many students prepared to show their support for teachers with a student walkout on Friday, March 2nd at 2pm. This student walkout was planned by three students attending Windermere High School in Vancouver, they stated that they didn’t believe that this walkout would get so much attention. By that Friday afternoon there were 18,139 Facebook users who joined the event to participate in the student walkout and then head downtown to the Vancouver Art Gallery, which is where the actual protest is happening. It wasn’t just in Vancouver that the walkout happened; there was also one in Kelowna, Prince George and Victoria. This demonstrated student support of teachers across British Columbia.
There are a lot of misconceptions held by students and parents about the reasons for the teachers’ job action this school year. Some are under the impression that teachers just want to make more money to fill their pockets, and although that would be beneficial, the increase in wages is in response to the constant increase of living costs. The teachers of British Columbia hope for better conditions in the classroom. Better conditions would include things like cutting down on class sizes; it is not a fair expectation to assume that one teacher will be able to successfully teach a class that has over 30 students. A teacher cannot assist every student in a short block of 80 minutes; it is an unrealistic standard to set. It is especially unfair when some students struggle with learning disabilities or need extra help in the class, not to mention the extreme lack of funding for schools. It is appalling when students are assigned textbooks, and bet on whose textbook they think will fall apart first. The lack of funding has always been a problem in the school system, yet we can build a retractable roof for BC Place for $563 million and students are still complaining about the fact that our textbooks are missing pages and are out of date. It is a devastating thing to see that the government does not value this generation’s educational needs.
Teachers have been without a contract since June, making it necessary for the government to make some sort of decision. Until now there has been no negotiation between the teachers and the government, which has been extremely frustrating for BC teachers. The hope was that after the student walkout and after the three day strike that the government would finally do something positive about the situation at hand. For now everything is dormant and teachers, parents, and students are all just waiting for the explosion and the first sign of war is the withdrawal of extra-curricular activities.
Bill 22, or the Education Improvement Act is government legislation that will put restrictions on BC teachers. In response to Bill 22, the BCTF voted to stop all extra-curricular activities starting this month. This was one of the main concerns for students across the province. Many local students have just been informed of this and are worried about what that means for future plans. Breanna Bognar from Frank Hurt Secondary School says in response to a rumour circulating her school, “Students at our school are worried that our graduation ceremony and dinner dance will be cancelled. It caused a panic throughout the school.” Lauren Dallow, a student attending Ecole Panorama Secondary School is concerned about the effects of the withdrawal of athletics, “If sports are cancelled it would be unfair to the student athletes because they could miss out on scholarship opportunities.” Is it fair to the students to go through all this? Aren’t we just supposed to focus on our schoolwork, without the extra stress of how this conflict between teachers and the government will affect us?
This disagreement will eventually come to an end, leaving the teachers, the government or the students satisfied. Is there a way we can find a happy medium? We will find out soon what the outcome will be and will have to adjust to it however possible.