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Premier Jacinta Allan says she expects students to stay in school next Thursday, after plans of a citywide student strike for Palestine emerged, but warned critics to remember many students have been affected by the war in the Middle East.
The Free Palestine Melbourne group posted details on social media of the student strike on Monday, asking students to walk out of school at lunchtime next Thursday and join a rally in the CBD shortly after.
In response, the Coalition urged the government to intervene to stop the strike and said students were being used as “political pawns” in the Israel-Gaza conflict.
On Tuesday morning, Allan said it was up to individual schools to decide how to handle the attendance of pupils.
“The [Education] Department will continue to work with schools in the normal way to provide whatever support they need.”
She also called for a calmer response to the walkouts after the attacks from opposition MPs and said some of these schools and students have been directly affected by the war.
Free Palestine Melbourne posted details of a student strike for Palestine planned for next week on social media. Credit: Facebook
“Let’s remember right now, that many schools in Melbourne … are providing important care for students who are directly affected by the events in the Middle East,” she said.
“We’ve got kids at school who have … lost loved ones, they’ve lost family members, they can’t get in contact with family members in either Israel or in Gaza.
“It’s really important that, as we consider this issue of attendance or otherwise, that we give students and schools the respect and the space to work through these issues at a local level.”
Education Minister Ben Carroll said that while it was a good thing for students to be engaged in international affairs, education is the priority, and he expects students not to skip school to attend pro-Palestine protests.
Premier Jacinta Allan said it was up to individual schools to decide how to handle the attendance of pupils.Credit: Eddie Jim
“Students will be encouraged to attend school,” he told reporters on Tuesday morning.
“We do know students are finding it very difficult, understandably, with events in the Middle East. But we are rolling out a range of supports.”
Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam called on schools not to punish students who skip class to attend pro-Palestine protests.
“These are young people wanting to take the future into their own hands,” she said.
“They’re seeing children and young people just like them being killed in the most horrendous war.
“Who are we to say that they shouldn’t be taking to the streets to express their pain and demanding their leaders ask for peace?”
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