Schools Building Schools reflects SFU’s interests and values

Photo Credit: Jennifer Aldridge (Flickr)
Photo Credit: Jennifer Aldridge (Flickr)
Photo Credit: Jennifer Aldridge (Flickr)

SFU champions the idea of “engaging the world,” and at Schools Building Schools (SBS), we live those values. We engage the world, engage students, and engage communities. We’re trying to bridge the gap between two different worlds, so that we can learn from and support each other.

Unfortunately, it seems the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) does not fully understand how our mandate coincides with that of the university. The continuation of our funding has recently come into question due to the belief that our mandate does not reflect student interests.

Let me explain how this is incorrect. Over 100 students have participated in our SFU-based club since 2010. Whether they’re on co-op positions, fundraising for a new project, leading awareness campaigns, or planning events, the students in SBS at SFU are gaining the skills and experience they need to kickstart careers in competitive fields.

In the summer of 2012, SFU student Stacey Bryant took a co-op position at a SBS development project in Mbarara, Uganda. While local teams built a vocational school to teach practical job skills to youth in the community, Bryant helped the school plan to be sustainable for years to come.

SFU student Rasheed Ahmed took a similar co-op position with SBS in 2013. For him, being immersed in the community and the culture was an essential part of learning about development work.

“SBS gave me the rare opportunity to plunge into the development sector and do incredibly meaningful work while in the field,” he said. “It has been an immensely empowering experience and one that motivated me to continue my education and make a tangible difference in the world.”

We only found out about the motion via Facebook less than 24 hours before the SFSS vote.

I’m now in my fourth year of studying International Studies and Political Science at SFU. I’ve been involved with SBS at SFU since my first year, and I’m now the group’s president. As I’ve watched my colleagues grow and succeed in their time here, I’ve realized SBS has been instrumental in providing career-related experience for SFU students.

In 2012, former SBS at SFU executives Lauren McCarthy and Suleyman Salmanov, backed by a team of committed volunteers, helped lead a successful campaign to garner support for a one dollar levy on tuition. The money raised through the levy has funded SBS projects in Uganda, supported communities in need, and given SFU students a wealth of experience.

Over 1,500 SFU students recognized the benefits of SBS at SFU when they signed a petition in our support in 2012. However, these benefits were less apparent to the SFSS, who initially voted to pass the referendum question by suggesting that students should discontinue our support.

As phrased, the referendum question misrepresented our mandate and inaccurately assumed that SBS does not represent the interests of SFU students.

As we only found out about the motion through informal contact via Facebook less than 24 hours before the SFSS vote, we were not able to attend the meeting at which this decision was made. Even the public agenda for the board meeting did not include this motion, as it was filed after the deadline.

At the following SFSS Board Meeting we argued that, based on the unfair process, the question be postponed until the next General Election. As a result the Board overturned their previous decision.

The referendum question will remain in limbo for another year, and in next year’s election, I encourage you to vote to continue funding SBS, to help us continue to engage the world. Since voting to contribute to SBS, SFU students have been funding education initiatives and changing the lives of youth both at home and abroad.

Join our team. We are SFU students, and SBS represents our values.