Ontario’s English and French Catholic teachers are joining a one-day strike today. This comes after a series of strikes that high school teachers have rolled out over the past few months. Ottawa Catholic elementary and secondary schools will also be closed today.
Teachers are seeking some changes to mandatory e-learning, class sizes and wages.
Aniko Varpalotai is a professor in the education program at Western University and an expert in Ontario’s education system. She said that the current unrest is the result of teachers continually being asked to do more with less.
“Funding cut backs, larger class sizes, and increasing demands within the classroom like children with special needs but no additional resources,” she said.
Varpalotai also says strikes are stressful for all concerned, but they do serve to build solidarity within the union and allow teachers to educate the public about the issues that concern them with. Strikes also cost the teachers pay while they are on strike.
Teaching is a stressful, difficult, and time-consuming job, contrary to some public perceptions. Teachers need to be respected with appropriate pay and support. Teachers should not be used as political pawns whenever a government declares that it needs to make cut backs to bring down a deficit or reduce taxes, Varpalotai adds.
Strikes are also stressful for students and their parents. Depending on the length of the strike, students may lose valuable class time. There is a concern with childcare for parents with younger children.
“But parents also need to support their teachers to ensure that their children are in a good learning environment,” Varpalotai said.
Nancy Josef is a parent of a nine-year-old student at Hillside School in Mississauga. “It is really hard for me as a working mother, strikes are happening a lot and I have to find someone to stay with my son otherwise I can’t go to work in strikes days,” she said.
What are the possible solutions for the situation?
- The government should negotiate an equitable settlement with the teachers’ unions.
- Respect the important and difficult work that teachers do every day and understand their requests which would lead to a settlement.