Public school students in B.C. are being encouraged to stage their own walkout on Wednesday, as a bitter contract dispute between teachers and the provincial government drags on.
Two Vancouver teens, Victoria Barker and Mackenzie Timko, are calling on students across the province to walk out of classes and picket all day to show their frustration at "losing out, all because adults cannot get along."
They say high school students who need to prepare for provincial exams and university pre-requisite courses are being hurt, and others are missing out on scholarship opportunities because teachers cannot help with extra-curricular activities.
On a Facebook page for the event, they write:
"The students in British Columbia have been put in the middle of the labour dispute between the BCTF [B.C. Teachers' Federation] and the government for our entire schooling. For some of us, that means our entire 13 years of education. The two sides are like parents who are divorcing and have stuck their children in the middle for the last thirteen years. Each side claims to be "fighting for the students" yet each side fails to show how they are doing so."
The walkout is planned for 9 a.m. on Wednesday, the only day this week that all teachers will be in B.C. classrooms. Participants are instructed to make signs — that support neither the teachers nor the government.
Wages are among the major issues in the contract dispute, with the government offering a 7.3-per-cent wage increase over six years, while teachers want 13.7 per cent over four years.
B.C. teachers are entering a second week of rotating strikes, while the province has cut their wages by 10 per cent over the job action. It has also partially locked out teachers, limiting the amount of work they're allowed to do before and after classes.
Students from Vancouver Island, Williams Lake, Cranbrook, Vancouver, Vernon, Squamish, Abbotsford, and Kelowna have committed to participate, said an update on Twitter by organizers.
They also acknowledged that some students will take part in the walkout for less than noble reasons: "This protest is not an excuse to skip. We would really appreciate if you would keep it to yourself if you’re planning on skipping."
Barker wrote on Facebook that she knew they had to do "something big to get everyone's attention."
"One more day of class time missed now will be better in the long run for future generations of B.C. students. We are hoping by doing this that they will not have to miss class time for labour disputes like we did."
With files from The Canadian Press
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