Students Have A Voice – The Student Walkout

March 3, 2012

Breaking News, Community

The students have a voice and they’ve used it.

Kill Bill-22, not our chances.

The teacher walkout has been a looming eventuality since September for BC teachers and students, and has recently come to fruition. The students displayed their support for their teachers in a province-wide gathering on Friday, March 2nd – a student walkout that reached nearly five thousand students in front of Vancouver’s Art Gallery.

The walkout started as a Facebook event, which is how many of the students present heard of the demonstration. All those interested were to walk out of their classes, and gather downtown on Hornby Street at two o’clock.

The event attracted a crowd with protestors as young as thirteen, and included concerned parents, eager to support BC’s teachers.

Glenn David Loft, the featured artist of the Occupy Vancouver movement, as well as a father of three BC students, was there to support the voices of students at the walkout.

“I thought it would be nice to come down here and help chaperone the situation,” Loft explained. “I knew, in my heart, that [their] voice and quest needed to be heard in a way that needed not just to go from this particular situation and venue, but right to City Hall in Vancouver, and onwards into parliament.”

Loft’s outlook was echoed by the crowd of youth, who stood in the rain for two hours, holding signs and chanting. Some even went as far as to congregate outside of Premier Christy Clark’s office, as BC teachers did in December when frustration with the lack of progress boiled over.

The majority of protesters believed the teachers’ and students’ needs were not only being treated with indifference by the government, but being completely ignored.

“Bill-22, enough said,” stated Kyla Hill, a ninth grade student at Maple Ridge Secondary School.

The student walkout was triggered by the introduction of Bill-22, a mandate that will prevent teachers from striking during a cooling off period, which will last until August. If teachers violate the no-strike clause, there will be fines of $475, per teacher, per day.

Cera Cooper commented on this, saying “I feel the way teachers are being treated is unfair and they need a voice. And seeing as in three days they’re no longer going to be able to have their voice, we need to stand up for them.”

Some protestors were not just concerned with the state of their immediate future, but also of their future in their careers.

“I want to be a teacher,” said another protestor, Sherisse Cross. “If teachers don’t have rights now, they’re probably not going to have rights when I’m older.”

The only qualm that any of the students had with the BC teachers’ demands was the amount of money they are asking for. “Too high”, said many, “for the BC government to sustain, given the current debt crisis”.

John Chang, a grade eleven student at David Thompson Secondary School, notes that many of his friends have been saying that exact thing and concedes that “there has to be a compromise between the government and the teachers” and hopes “it reaches [an agreement] soon, before more problems arise in the future.”

Glenn David Loft remains positive about the movement started by the students, and to carry it on has created a second Facebook page, organized by a group of student leaders for another walk-out to be initiated at a later date.

“We will come back here, set up a stage, have a concert and a one day camp out, to continue on with the support students need to make sure that, either now there will be change or next time there is an election that this is not forgotten about,” Loft announces. “There needs to be change now. You are part of the political movement, and it’s about time we recognize you and validate you on your efforts. It was well done here today, this is just the start.”

The students’ support for their teachers stayed optimistic through the rain.

Their message was clear: Students have a voice. And it was heard in Vancouver on Friday.

Story and Photos by Elizibeth Ashton

Interviews by Aliza Bosa

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