Students show their anger

[attach]6578[/attach]Students at Georges Vanier Secondary School angered over the decision by teachers to withdraw from extracurricular activities to protest Bill 115, took to the streets themselves to vent their frustration.

“We feel that we’re pawns in the middle of this chess game between the union and the government,” said student council president Khadija Waseem during the Dec. 12 protest. “We have no one to speak up for us on our behalf, and that’s why we have to come out on walkouts and have to have these events in order to make sure we have a voice.”

It’s a theme that’s repeating itself in high schools across Ontario as high school teachers refuse to supervise sports, field trips and other extracurricular activities to protest Bill 115 which allows the government to impose a contract on the educators if local agreements aren’t reached by Dec. 31.

While a lot of the focus has been on the [url=]loss of sports and arts[/url], the work-to-rule campaign has also hurt activities that directly impact the educational progress and physical well-being of students.

“They’re taking away clubs that would help people that are not in the best financial state,” said grade 12 student Katie Mackenzie. “We have a breakfast club, but we can’t do that anymore.”

Grade 12 student Romeo Hayes said he has friends who have transferred to private schools in order to get the help they need academically.

“Students are complaining that they need extracurricular help for math and science and all our other subjects, which they are not receiving anymore,” he said. “They want the … extra help they don’t get anymore.”

[attach]6579[/attach]The lack of regular extracurriculars also have many grade 12 students worried about what it will mean for their futures.

“How are they expected to get into university if they have no extracurriculars to put on their applications?” said students council vice president Taniya Nazaar.

Students have turned to protest en masse. Weston Collegiate Institute in the west end and York Mills Collegiate Institute staged walkouts on the same day as Vanier. Protests swept other schools across the city throughout the week. On Dec. 13, students from an expected 40 schools rallied at Queen’s Park to demand and end to the job action.

“The reason we’re protesting is so the government notices what the students are facing,” Hayes said. “If the public outcry reaches the government, then definitely, the protest should work.”

Student council president Khadija Waseem maintains that Vanier’s protest is not meant to take sides in the labour dispute.

“We’re not against or for the teachers or the government,” she said. “We’re fighting for our rights. This is for us. This is for what we believe in and what we think is right, for something we feel we’re entitled to.”

But some protestors said they felt differently.

Hayes wants to show his support for his teachers. “The teachers encourage [us to protest],” he said. “They’re like, ‘walk out!’ They weren’t going to stop us.”

Students hope that protesting will help influence policy and get their school year back on the rails.

“I just hope this leads to positive change,” Nazaar said. “I just want to go back to the way things were before.”

So does Jessica Patel. The grade 10 volleyball player has already lost out on part of her season, and stands to lose much more.

“I don’t want to come to school,” she said. “I feel like there’s no point, because I have nothing to look forward to.”

Although Patel has two years of school left, she may not see sports at Vanier again. If a local agreement cannot be reached and the province imposes a two-year contract on teachers, the moratorium on extracurriculars could continue until the contract expires.

“I think that makes everything worse,” Patel said.

“I want to remember my high school experience in a good way, not like this.”