I began my journey to attain a post secondary education almost five years ago. Because I had not completed high school while in my teens, in order to attend university I had to first complete my Grade 12 education.
Now, after five years and overcoming many personal obstacles, I am proud to say that I was able to accomplish my dream and have found myself working in an industry I had previously felt to be so far out of my reach.
While attending Vancouver Island University (VIU), the institution went though many changes. In my first year, it went from being a university college, to being a full fledged university. This was interesting to watch as the instructors there became more and more frustrated with how the allocation of funds centred around administration at the expense of courses and programs. In my third year, the teachers decided to strike. This was a contentious issue for students. Those who were in their final semester worried about their ability to graduate. Others were worried that they would have to make up for lost credits down the road. I was one of the latter.
While I supported the teachers, I was worried about being able to graduate in a timely manner. That being said, I had, by March and April of 2011, established many great relationships with instructors and had gained much respect for them and the job they do: the many hours of overtime; the personal attention they give to each student; their pride for, and personal investment in, the university itself. And the list goes on.
Similar to the concerns of B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) teachers and the decision to withhold the extracurricular services teachers provide, the teachers at VIU—members of the Federation of Post Secondary Educators of B.C.—were more concerned with budgetary constraints and program closures, than they were with wage hikes. It was clear to me then, and is clear to me now with the current battle between the provincial government and the BCTF, that teachers have the best interests of their students in mind. And I think with the current strike the teachers have, for the most part, the support of parents around the province.
In my opinion, Bill 22 is appalling. It undermines the very existence of unions and the right of employees to demand better working conditions. However, in the long run, it also jeopardizes students and their ability to enter the workforce in any meaningful manner.
I am worried about Canada’s education system as a whole. I think B.C. teachers should use the student strike in Quebec as a kind of role model (minus the violence). The concerns that teachers have are not issues that teachers or the general public should be passive about. And while I respect the stance of the BCTF, in its attempt to satisfy parents and gain their support through passive striking and the withholding of extracurricular services, I think they should take a stand and not be afraid to take direct action. Do what needs to be done and make the government pay attention. For the sake of my children and future grandchildren, I for one, would stand with them.