On Monday morning, students across Manitoba packed up their books on their first day back in class, hoping to make a statement about their learning conditions.
On Friday, an Instagram account popped up, encouraging Manitoban students to walk out after their first morning back at school. Across Manitoba, dozens of schools have had students quickly jump in to take part in the demonstration, asking for access to rapid tests and medical or KN95 masks. More than 2,000 people have signed their petition, saying things such as "I believe students should be able to feel safe while attending in-person school" and "students, staff, and families have rights that should be heard instead of ignored."
Tenth-grade Institut collégial Vincent Massey Collegiate students Kaelyn and Mila took part Monday, walking out of their school's side doors, homework in hand.
"I think the entire point is that we don't want to miss out on an education without having to risk our safety," Kaelyn says. "We deserve to be heard."
Kaelyn and Mila want to be in class learning, but they do not feel schools are offering the level of protection they expect. They say looking around their 1,300-student school, they are concerned about how seriously the pandemic is being taken.
"Some kids aren't wearing their mask correctly and that is a big concern for us," Mila says, noting that masks are often worn under the nose.
The movement at their school did not come in a big wave but they are hoping to create a ripple. The students estimate two dozen others also walked out Monday.
"I think it is quite empowering to show that we have a voice," Mila says.
Close to 100 schools in Manitoba, mostly high schools, joined on Monday.
The movement's response has been mixed. Some commentators have been in favour of the student-led demonstration, while others oppose.
Some groups, such as Communities Not Cuts, are showing their support by putting up signs at the Manitoba Legislative Building.
Solidarity with @mbstudentsforc1 today! We have 300 signs up at the legislature in support. Feel free to go and add yours to the collection and fight for safe schools! #mbpoli #Covid19MB pic.twitter.com/sNof6sN1RC— Communities Not Cuts (@CNC_Manitoba) January 17, 2022