Silent students advocate for right to education

Free the Children SFU is raising money to build a school in Haiti. - Leah Bjornson
Free the Children SFU is raising money to build a school in Haiti. - Leah Bjornson
Free the Children SFU is raising money to build a school in Haiti. – Leah Bjornson

When asked how their event was going, organizers from Free the Children SFU replied: “Quiet, but good.” Unlike most events, quiet was a sign of success for the team, considering they were leading students in a vow of silence on SFU’s Burnaby campus last week.

Participants pledged to refrain from speaking for 24 hours “in solidarity with children whose voices are not heard and rights are not upheld around the world or those here at home who are bullied,” according to the Free the Children website.

Event organizer Selena Van Aert told The Peak that the point of the vow was “taking a silent stand so other people don’t [have to].”

She explained the meaning behind refraining from speaking for the 24-hour period. “It kind of is symbolizing how these girls who don’t have the right to education, how they aren’t able to speak out about it, they just have to go along with what their life is about [as decided by others],” Van Aert said.

Thousands of students at high school and university campuses around the world take the pledge every year to go silent for 24 hours, as a show of support for the rights of girls living in poverty.

SFU’s Burnaby campus is no exception. Van Aert brought attention to why SFU students should be concerned about events such as the Vow of Silence. “I think it’s important for SFU to know about it because we are so privileged to be here and have education and have everything that we have here,” she continued. “Having the awareness shows everyone how lucky they really are and how there are so many who aren’t.”

Members of the club collected pledges during the week of March 23, inviting students to take the vow on March 26 in West Mall. Organizers also sold boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts and took photos of participants with their hands placed over their mouths with the word ‘silent’ written on them.

Free the Children SFU has been raising funds over the past two years to build a school in Haiti. So far, they have raised approximately $5,000. “We’re hoping to be able to raise, and we will, that $10,000 to build that school,” Van Aert commented.

When asked how she felt about having to stay silent for 24 hours, Van Aert replied, “I think it will be really hard. [. . .] Communication is what we’re doing throughout most of the day.

“But at the same time I’m excited because I’m able to let people know about this issue that’s going on around us in the world,” she concluded.