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Silence to speak volumes

Students taking part in human rights campaign

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From left to right: Sargent Park School teacher Michele Lanyon and students Heather Jimenez, Seemeen Mohamed, and teacher Maureen Wilson stand next to a wall decorated with article cards depicting children’s rights.

CINDY CHAN Enlarge Image

From left to right: Sargent Park School teacher Michele Lanyon and students Heather Jimenez, Seemeen Mohamed, and teacher Maureen Wilson stand next to a wall decorated with article cards depicting children’s rights. Photo Store

Sargent Park School (SPS) is sending a strong message by being silent.

On April 17, students at the West End school (2 Sargent Park Pl.) will be taking part in a vow of silence for the third year in a row as part of charitable organization Free the Children’s international campaign to show solidarity and support for children and human beings around the world who are being denied human rights and don’t have a voice.

At SPS, students are challenged to remain silent from the time they walk through the school’s doors until they leave for the day.

"They remain silent throughout the day, and not just silent in their voice, but silent in their social media," Maureen Wilson, Grade 8 language arts and social studies teacher at the school, said. "They are asked not to be on Facebook or Twitter."

Wilson said students are also asked to donate a loonie each, and the money is sent to Free the Children’s Adopt a Village campaign.

During the day, teachers will be providing lessons by writing on their whiteboards or through PowerPoint presentations, and students have to find a way to communicate and interact with their instructors and peers without uttering a word.

"Passing notes is permitted, sticky notes are permitted, gestures are permitted. Any means of communication (except talking) is permitted," Wilson said. "It is actually quite amazing that the students are the ones who tend to be the gatekeepers of the silence, so if someone says something, they remain silent and they don’t speak back to them."

Wilson said since implementing the vow of silence project at SPS, the atmosphere at the school has been more positive and the students are becoming more compassionate towards others.

"I have personally noticed that, and not just at the vow of silence but all the activities that create awareness of social injustice, that they are more aware and they have become more empathetic to the lives of others," Wilson said, adding that former SPS principal Fatima Mota once said to her that there have been fewer referrals to the office.

In honour of the vow of silence, the Grade 8 students at SPS have been working on several assignments about human rights, including a novel study on Iqbal by Francesco D’Adamo. The novel is a fictionalized account of a real boy named Iqbal Masih who was a victim of child labour. He worked in a carpet factory in order to pay off his family’s debt.

Heather Jimenez, a Grade 8 student, said she actually got to experience what Iqbal went through at the carpet factory by making bracelets.

"Iqbal and the little kids have to do looms for the carpets, so we did it with bracelets. I was having a hard time, but I was thinking those little kids probably have a harder time than me," Jimenez said.

The Grade 8 students also created a wall of article cards depicting rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"The wall is basically these article cards we did in class which showed different human rights that some kids are being denied. We would post them up on the wall, and each one would be a different article telling us a little about a different human right," Seemeen Mohamed, another Grade 8 student, said.

For more information about the vow of silence, visit freethechildren.com/get-involved/campaigns/we-are-silent

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