Students take their frustration to the street
“I should be in class, not fighting for my education.”
That was one of several messages expressed by École secondaire catholique Le Relais students last Wednesday as they joined a province-wide demonstration against provincial education reforms.
The slogan may have summarized the views of people who have come down on opposing sides of a debate over the demonstrations.
Many have expressed support for the students, saying they were justified to take their grievances to the streets.
Others would concur with only the first part of the slogan, contending the students ought to have remained in school.
However, both sides would agree that these issues are not going to be resolved any time soon.
Teachers and education workers in Ontario have “formed a common front to defend a strong publicly funded education system that is of high quality and accessible to all.”
Five unions representing workers in every school board in Ontario have declared jointly that, “the cuts being made to the education budget will have devastating effects on student well-being and achievement.”
At a local level, there is a movement afoot to expand the campaign against provincial cutbacks that will see about 3,500 teaching posts cut over the next four years.
Geraldine Fitzpatrick Borland, of Lancaster, is urging parents and teachers to emulate the students. She suggests an “Education is Freedom” T-shirt day be held so citizens can show their solidarity with students.
“These cuts will directly affect our school,” says Le Relais student Élodie Lamontagne, a leader of last week’s walkout.
“The government cuts are going to harm students with special needs. If we have fewer teachers and larger classes, there will be less one-on-one teaching,” she adds.
About 150 Le Relais and 65 Glengarry District High School students were among those taking part in the demonstrations.
Some 3,475 full-time teaching posts will be eliminated through attrition between 2019-2020 and 2023, according to a government memo sent to school boards.
The province will save about $851 million by not replacing teachers who retire or resign.
At the same time, the average class size requirement for Grades 9 to 12 will be adjusted to 28, up from the current average of 22. Suzanne Blouin wrote on The
News Facebook page that she hoped people of all ages would add their voices to the protests. “The impact of these changes to the education system (especially the size of a class) will be felt on us all. Education is an investment in the future.”
A rally Saturday at Queen’s Park followed Wednesday’s walkouts by thousands of students at about 600 schools across the province.
“This was not a school or school board sanctioned event and classes ran as normal during this time. It lasted for about one hour. Community police were called to help maintain student safety. School staff supervised students who remained on school property and within the school,” GDHS Principal Jennifer MacLachlan said in a statement.
“It is important to note that the school and the school board do not accept others advocating for students to walk out of their classes and of their school,” she wrote in a letter to parents and guardians.
“We believe that students should remain safely with the school and should not engage in activities that disrupt learning. As staff at the school, we endeavour to assist our students in understanding how to give voice to matters that they believe are important to them in a manner that
Board “does not accept others advocating for students to walk out of their classes,” while parents urge “Education is Freedom Day.”
promotes the safe and effective operation of the school. We hope that you will take some time to speak to your child/children about safe and appropriate means to express their views.”
Premier Doug Ford has stated that the students are being used as pawns by teachers’ unions.
Education Minister Lisa Thompson has said that larger classes are actually beneficial since they teach students to be resilient.
COLOURFUL COMPLAINTS:. Students tell Premier Doug Ford that he is ruining their artistic dreams and that they could fashion more creative posters if arts programs were not axed.