Thousands of students are showing their dissatisfaction with the Ford government’s cuts to education today by walking out of class.
At around 1:15 p.m., thousands of students marched out of class, chanting slogans and carrying placards.
Dubbed the “#StudentsSayNo Walkout,” organizers said they expected 200,000 students at hundreds of elementary and high schools across the province to take part.
Organizing group “March for Our Education” said this is the fourth walkout protest they are holding to protest cuts.
The group said the walkouts are being held to protest changes such as mandatory online courses for all students, cuts to Ontario’s autism programs, banning of cell phones from classrooms, the planned elimination of thousands of teaching positions across the province and larger average class sizes.
“The message that we’re trying to get across to the Ford government is that students across Ontario will not stand and just watch as they rip apart our education system,” March for Our Education Co-Executive Director and Grade 12 student Frank Hong told CP24. “We started this only two weeks ago and we have reached almost every single student across the province. We have walkouts planned in North Bay to Windsor to Ottawa to Toronto. This is a province-wide movement and through this we hope the Ford government listens to us and cancels the education cuts.”
Responding to the planned walkouts, Education Minister Lisa Thompson said she thinks roundtables and consultations are better ways to give feedback than walkouts.
“We want to listen in a constructive way so we can gather all the data together so that we can effect change in a positive manner,” Thompson said.
She said it’s difficult for the government to respond to messages sent in a walkout.
“We’re seeing the en masse, but we’re not hearing their voice in a manner that we can work with,” Thompson said. “But you know what’s really important; I understand that the system is broken.”
She said her government inherited an education system that was “crumbling” under the previous government and has undertaken consultations to improve the system.
“We listened to parents, we listened to teachers and we listened to students last fall and because of that, we’ve landed in a very strong spot,” Thompson said. “We’re focusing on math, we’re focusing on the topics and subjects in school that will prepare kids for the jobs of tomorrow.”
Hong said that beyond Thursday’s walkouts, students “are thinking about next steps” to make sure they keep the government’s attention.
He said a campaign urging students and their parents to write letters to their MPPs will likely be the next step.
“MPPs listen to parents because parents are voters. If parents start expressing their anger, MPPs will listen and eventually the Ford government will have to listen too,” Hong said.
The walkout is slated to happen at 1:15 p.m.
Hong said students at each school will gather in front of or behind the buildings and hear speeches from student leaders, invited guests and politicians. Students will then return to class about an hour later.
“Walkouts do work. We amplify the student voice and the province and the world can hear us,” Hong said. – cp24