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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Students walk out demanding safer conditions in Montreal & Greece

Students at a Montreal high school walked out Thursday as a wave of hundreds of student sit-ins and mobilizations grip Greece. In both cases students are calling for safer schools in the face of the pandemic.

Massive rally for safer school conditions in Athens, October 1

Faced with what they feel are unsafe conditions in their schools students in Montreal and Greece protested on Thursday, October 1.

In Montreal students at the Lasalle Community Comprehensive High School walked out of classes calling for proper ventilation, masks and the option to learn on-line.

A petition started by student Mason Padulo outlines their demands:

One of the main problems in the schools at the moment is that the students can not social distance properly within the classroom because some of the classrooms are too small. Many of the classrooms do not have windows, or proper ventilation.
We have been told that we do not have to wear a mask in the classroom, however we can’t maintain the six feet distance in order to remain safe. We would like for the province of Quebec to allow for on-line learning as it is available elsewhere without having to obtain a doctor’s note. The rules that the government have put in place have put children, staff (teachers, support workers, bus drivers, etc…) and family members at risk because they are too strict. They need to be much more accessible to students.
We understand that some parents have to send their children to school, however the ones that have an option are not being allowed to do online learning. This will help to reduce the spread of the virus.
It should also become mandatory to wear a mask in the classroom. It is a public area. If wearing a mask is mandatory everywhere else, why is it not mandatory in classrooms? Many students don’t wear the mask in the classrooms, and most don’t in the hallways.

Given the rise of Covid cases in Quebec as a second wave hits, the students are far from alone in voicing this demand with some health experts and teacher's unions joining the call, noting that in Ontario, for example, masks are mandatory from grade four on.

In Greece pupil's assemblies have organized sit-ins in over 700 schools in recent days and large rallies were held in Athens, Thessaloniki and other cities with "students, parents and educators...demanding more teaching and cleaning staff to be hired in the public school system to allow smaller classes and more regular sanitation in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic."

The General Secretary of the Communist Party of Greece, Dimitris Koutsoumbas issued a statement saying:

Pupils are right. We all stand with them. Teachers, educators, parents, all the Greek people stand with their just demands. There can be solutions. What does the government do not understand? The children demand less pupils in each classroom, new classrooms to be opened, teachers and cleaning staff to be appointed in schools. These are just demands and therefore we support them.

As new waves of the pandemic hit and as governments push to keep schools and many industries open and operating as close to normal as possible despite unsafe conditions, mobilizations along these lines are likely to spread and grow. What is in the interests of austerity governments and capital is not at all what is in the interests of students and workers or their safety. Those being thrown into the crucible of the capitalist coronavirus crisis have little choice but to fight back.



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