Hi there, I'm Callista. I'm a 16-year-old student whose future is at stake, my rights are being violated, and I need you to hear me out.
I'm writing about how I feel regarding the current B.C. teachers' strike, because I'm a student, and as a student it is my duty to speak up about this. Because the rights of students under the age of 18 are being violated.
Yes, everyone is affected, but it's the students and their futures that are at stake. I understand and know what the BCTF is fighting for: smaller class sizes, more special education teachers, and higher wages. And that's understandable, but the government doesn't seem get that they're putting a large amount of students' futures and careers at risk. What is happening to the public education system is not okay.
In case you're unaware of what was happening in schools in the last few months of the last school year, I'll explain. One day from every week was cut off. So that's four days a week you get to review for exams. Teachers weren't even allowed in the building before school, during lunch, and after school, and weren't allowed to help students outside of class. This meant that during that small window of class time, the teacher needed to help 30-plus students prepare for their provincials at once. It wasn't possible. The class sizes are too large and there aren't enough teachers. And of course the teachers helped the children who needed it the most, which I agree with, but it meant that any student who somewhat knew what he or she was doing was screwed. There just wasn't enough time in the day.
I mentioned that my rights are being violated. Well, yes: According to the United Nations treaty the Conventions on the Rights of the Child, which Canada signed in 1990 and officially ratified in 1991, a few of them are:
"Governments have a responsibility to take all available measures to make sure children's rights are respected, protected and fulfilled... This involves assessing their social services, legal, health and educational systems, as well as levels of funding for these services."
It's actually unfortunate that a lot of parents, students, and young children don't even know that there are a set of rights for us, and that it's the government's responsibility to protect and enforce them. It's actually part of their job to be familiar with these rights. So my question is, why are they not being used?
I have a right to education. And I'm terrified that a group of adults who were elected by other adults think that we don't deserve that.
Why don't we as students get a say?
We are not only the future of B.C.'s economy, but we're living in the present where we want to change things and take action as well. But we are growing up, told that our education isn't necessary or important. The argument that children are too young to decide what they want doesn't work anymore. Many of us are leaving school, going off to college, and being expected to act as adults while still being treated as children. Public education is meant to be available to everyone, and the convention of children's rights is supposed to ensure that it stays that way. What the government is doing is wrong.
I'm very disappointed, because you know what? I'm important. I have things to say and so many things to learn.
I will not let the government think for one second that it's okay for them to disregard my rights, my peer's rights, or my younger sibling's rights any longer.
A version of this piece first appeared in The Squamish Chief.
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