SURREY - A few hundred students at L.A. Matheson Secondary school in Whalley walked out of classes about an hour before the bell Friday afternoon, chanting "students have power" and carrying signs in support of their teachers, who are set to strike for three days starting Monday.
"We're doing this for the teachers to help them out because they're helping us by going on strike," said Harmeet Rattanpal, a Grade 9 student.
"By going on strike they're losing their money and stuff, but they're doing it all for us."
The province's 41,000 teachers want a 15 per cent wage increase but the Liberal government says it's strapped.
On Wednesday 87 per cent - that's 27,946 of 32,209 public school teachers who participated in a province-wide vote - voted to defy Bill 22, which the government tabled Tuesday. The bill would impose a net-zero contract on them.
Susan Lambert, president of the B.C. Teacher's Federation, on Thursday gave the provincial government notice there will be a three-day strike starting Monday unless Education Minister George Abbott returns to the negotiation table and abandons his "provocative and damaging legislation."
The strike, if it goes ahead, will be the most dramatic escalation during a school year in which teachers have already refused to prepare report cards and perform other administrative duties.
Peter Mate, Grade 10, said the students were protesting underfunding, understaffing and budget cuts.
"As a collective voice we hope we can send a message to the government that they just can't take away their money and you have to invest in the future," he said.
Grade 10 student Sarah Barahmeh, who also participated in the walkout, said some of her fellow students were afraid to do so because they were "scared about the consequences of their actions.
"But a lot of students did walk out and teachers did encourage us but did not give us the full permission because they were scared of the consequences if they would say 'Yes students, walk out," she added.