Secondary students stage walkouts in support of teachers

Nanaimo students left class Friday afternoon to support the teachers' strike, which began Monday.

John Barsby Secondary School students Phebe Briggs

John Barsby Secondary School students Phebe Briggs

Hundreds of Nanaimo students walked out of classes Friday afternoon in a show of support for teachers, who started a three-day strike Monday.

At John Barsby Secondary School, about 200 students rallied outside the building with signs, chanting “We support our teachers.” Nanaimo-North Cowichan NDP MLA Doug Routley joined the students as they paraded along the sidewalks outside the front of the school.

Tory Martin, a Grade 12 student from Wellington Secondary School, came with a group of peers to John Barsby because his own school wasn’t organizing a protest.

He said he was there because he supports his teachers and to express frustration about teacher job action.

“I do feel it’s impacted my studies, not knowing what’s happening,” said Martin.

He added that what teachers are asking for is also important – class sizes should have limits and he believes students deserve better than the old, out-of-date equipment they use now.

“A lot of [teachers] care about us,” he said. “That’s why I’m here – to support them.”

Phebe Briggs, a Grade 11 student and one of the organizers of the John Barsby walkout, said some classes in her school are larger than optimal and she’s afraid it will only get worse.

She wants to show teachers that students are behind their fight for better learning conditions and wages.

“I think they’re asking for fair things,” said Briggs. “B.C. teachers are one of the lowest paid.”

Daniel Quiring, a Grade 11 student, is worried that the province’s intention is to require students to take more distance education courses so that fewer teachers are needed, which would not work for many students.

He was there to stand up for the right of teachers to engage in job action – a right that proposed provincial legislation would take away.

“If the government can get away with not letting teachers protest, government can get away with lots more,” said Quiring.

Tayler Ballendine, a Grade 9 student, said she supports her teachers in their fight for a quality education system.

“They’re not doing this just for money,” she said. “Our teachers care for us a lot.”

Clare Hooper, a Grade 12 student at Dover Bay Secondary School, organized a walkout at her school Friday afternoon as well.

She estimates about 350 students stood with her out front of the school.

“We’re doing it because we’re wanting a change with our education system,” she said. “We don’t get the resources we need.”

Course options are limited by the need to get class sizes as close to 30 as possible, there’s not enough support for special needs students and students are using outdated textbooks because there’s no budget to buy new ones, she added.

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