||Volume 18, Number 3, November/December 2005
Students who care
by Eliot Hong
When I heard that teachers across British Columbia were voting on whether to walk out of schools on Friday, I was shocked that the issues between the teachers and the government had reached this level. I heard things like school might be out on Friday, and closed until the problems between the teachers and the government are resolved! And, all over the evening news, was the same message, that teachers had decided to stand their ground until the government decided to talk with them.
The initial delight quickly turned into full consciousness that school might be out for weeks! How was I going to play football? How was I going to participate and learn at school? This quickly led to an idea to create a group representing students all over the Lower Mainland! I grabbed my cell phone and started calling students I knew who were part of student council, grad committee, or any other youth council. The word spread that I was hunting for these students, and soon I had calls pouring in from students all over the Lower Mainland. We set a date for our first meeting, Friday, October 7, at the downtown Vancouver Public Library. At our first meeting, we had 13 student representatives from West Van, Kitsilano, Handsworth, Sentinel, David Thompson, Churchill, and Point Grey Secondary Schools.
We established our group’s name—Students Who Care. We also established our group’s viewpoint: students who care about our education and future. By supporting the teachers we hoped to speed up negotiations between the BCTF and the government to get us back into school ASAP. We also set up a web site, where we planned to post strike and student involvement information, www.xanga.com/lowermainlandinfo06. We needed more people on board, so we decided to have another meeting at Kitsilano Community Centre. CBC was there for the first media coverage of our group. We collected e-mail addresses and phone numbers of everyone who was there. We finalized the executive of the group. Students from Van Tech and Ideal were added.
We set up a student rally on the corners of Broadway & Granville, on Friday, October 14, at 3:00 p.m. We sent out e-mails, to all the students that had showed up to Wednesday’s meeting, with information about the rally and sign ideas, and the request to forward the e-mail to as many students as possible! On Friday, we were worried about how big the turnout would be, because student interest seemed low at the time. We were shocked! There were approximately 300 students with signs reading Honk for [Edumacation], Students Support Teachers, Negotiation not Legislation, and Kill Bill 12. We were getting people constantly honking horns in support for our cause, and parents and teachers coming up to us, shaking our hands, and thanking us for our support! We had excellent media coverage. What was amazing was that this student-led rally was going really well.
On Tuesday, October 18, the executive met to discuss what course of action was necessary to end the tribulations between the BCTF and the government. We decided to first join the Lower Mainland Rally at the PNE Coliseum on Friday, October 21. Other plans included another, much larger, student rally, creating postcards, and getting students, teachers, and parents to sign them and send them to Victoria, and following Gordon Campbell himself to all media events as a sign that students are the voice of the future and should not be ignored!
However, by Friday, October 21, the teachers and the government had reached a tentative deal. Nonetheless, we still participated in the rally with CUPE members, HEU members, and teachers all across the Lower Mainland! Not only was it inspirational, we even got a standing ovation for our support! It was amazing, to have so many adults clapping, stomping, and cheering for us students!
It was amazing to see what students can do, once brought together united for a single cause! The group was disappointed that there would be no more student events, but was glad to know that school would be back. Now inactive, we have hung up our signs, yet we will not hesitate to come back and raise our voices, should the need come up again, as we are Students Who Care and will not back down in our beliefs!
Eliot Hong is a Grade 12 student at West Vancouver Senior Secondary School.