No matter what results from a marathon meeting Sunday in Richmond between the opposing sides in the B.C. teachers’ strike, Kevin Dhir isn’t going to forget his education has been sidetracked.
Dhir, 17, is supposed to be in Grade 12 as Sir Winston Churchill Secondary this fall but the dispute between the B.C. Teachers Federation and the provincial government, represented by the B.C. Public School Employers Association, has wiped out the first two weeks of this school year.
“There’s 550,000 students and we’re all going to be voters some day,” said Dhir. “I turn 18 next July. We’re not going to forget who’s behind this.”
He was at the Vancouver Art Gallery to speak to several hundred people Sunday at a rally of parents and students calling for an end to their extended and unwelcome break from classes.
The loss of two weeks of classes is going to have a negative effect, said Dhir.
“Even if we go back, it’s not going to be a nice grad year,” he said. “We’re going to have to cram and catch up for the rest of the year.”
There seemed to be plenty of talk but no resolution Sunday as the two sides hunkered down at a Richmond hotel with superstar mediator Vince Ready until late into the evening.
No statements were made to indicate if progress was being made but the marathon meeting, which came after another full-day session on Saturday, was a hopeful sign considering how talks broke down in late August after Ready walked out, saying the two sides were too far apart for any meaningful mediation.
Meanwhile, students rallying at the art gallery expressed frustration that the ongoing dispute could jeopardize their education and their futures.
That some universities are considering using Grade 11 marks as a standard for acceptance isn’t fair, according to Dhir, because it’s not an accurate representation.
“I had a really bad math mark last year,” he explained. “I signed up for summer school. That didn’t happen (because of the strike). The fact I’m getting further behind doesn’t help that math mark.”
Joanna Li, 16, was also hoping to be in Grade 12 at Churchill instead of at a protest in downtown Vancouver.
Her anxiety level, she said, is “ridiculous.”
“It’s through the roof,” she said. “We’ve been through so much.”
The anxiety level was also expressed through social media, specifically on Facebook, where a group called “Parents: Actively Protest on Sept. 2” organized the Sunday rally in just a week.
Not many members of the group, which rapidly grew to about 1,000 participants, really knew each other.
“There was just a lot of dialogue about what we could do,” said Vancouver parent Nadia Roberts, one of the organizers of Sunday’s rally.
Roberts, 34, has two children. One is just four years old, but the other is six and supposed to be going to Grade 1.
The goal for the rally was simple, she said: “We want the strike to end. We want our kids back in school. It’s pretty simple.”
But unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be anything simple about the negotiations.
— with a file from Postmedia