Students learn freedom of speech by keeping quiet

École Mother Teresa School students drew special symbolic pictures while not daring to peep a word.

A Grade 4 and 5 classroom at École Mother Teresa School was filled with students who drew special symbolic pictures while not daring to peep a word last Thursday afternoon.

The students were participating in a campaign called Vow of Silence from the international Free The Children charity. Together they watched videos online, discussed what freedoms children in other countries don’t have and remained silent for 45 minutes.

One of the school’s teachers, Heather Weaver, has been involved with the charity for 15 years now, and said the main reason why the school participates in the initiative is to take a stand for others who don’t have a voice in the world.

She said she has discussions with the students on what their freedoms and rights are and how they are free to say what they want without being punished. The students learned that other children their age are denied the freedom of speech and deal with severe consequences if they take a stand.

“We discussed it in the classes of where we don’t even think that others don’t have a right such as freedom of speech,” Weaver said. “We’ve viewed some of the videos from the Free The Children website on the Vow of Silence. The students were shocked to learn that kids their age do not have a right to say what they feel.”

Weaver said that one of the videos shown to the students was about a young girl, Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan, who chose to speak up about being denied education, which resulted in her being shot in the head. The girl’s life was saved by an English physician who surgically removed the bullet, but she was shot all because she choose to speak out about the right to an education.

Weaver said one of the most important things the students are learning from participating in the campaign is how life is often taken for granted in Alberta.

“Once we step outside that bubble and outside those borders, we realize that life can be drastically different for others who are the exact same age as we are,” Weaver said.

She said the students have been involved with having many conversations around how life would be different outside of their own borders. They have been learning why other children their own age can’t speak out, who controls that and why there are corrupt governments in the world that make different nations so different and what allows them to have the rights that they do and that others don’t.

“The Vow of Silence focuses on all human beings in the world who do not have that freedom,” Weaver said.