HUNTSVILLE – A fundamentalist group’s vicious attack on a Pakistani girl has turned students at VK Greer Memorial Public School into education activists.
Students responsible for creating a video advocating for girls’ education rights say they hope their work will inspire others to action as well.
Terri Howell’s Grade 6/7 class first heard about how Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting girls’ rights to education while studying a book.
The book was called Safe as Houses and followed a courageous 13-year-old female character in Toronto forced to survive through Hurricane Hazel.
“When we discussed the main character in the book, these guys decided she wasn’t very realistic because she was making all these huge decisions, and children their age didn’t make huge decisions like that,” said Howell.
But while the class was analyzing the book, their teacher brought in a newspaper clipping about Yousafzai, who was recovering from her gunshot wound in a United Kingdom hospital. Yousafzai is 15 years old.
“They suddenly felt that maybe children that age could be very brave,” said Howell.
The 24 students in the class, who are around ages 11 and 12, were shocked and angered by the Taliban’s attack on a girl whose only crime was to advocate for a right children in Muskoka may take for granted.
“We’re sometimes complaining about something (children in other countries) would love to have,” said student Shirely Cherry. “You don’t think about or appreciate what you have unless you realize someone else doesn’t have it.”
The girls and boys in the class decided they were going to do something to support Yousafzai’s efforts.
After reading her story and studying the issue, the students spent a day making a two minute and 42 second video that promoted girls’ rights and awareness of international struggles for equality.
The video – scripted, directed and edited by students – shows the students standing in front of the camera at various locations around the school talking about how individuals such as Yousafzai can inspire change. It is a call to action for students around the world to stand up for every girl’s right to education.
The students talk in the video about how girls in some parts of Pakistan are not considered equal and how men are considered the stronger, smarter and better gender. The students say these misleading and dangerous stereotypes have to end.
“Some people think it was a while ago that girls were treated like this, but they need to know Malala is in the hospital right now. It’s still happening,” said student Chloe Provost.
Some students found it difficult to understand how women in some parts of the world can be treated so terribly.
“Girls in our country get rights,” said student Emma Collins. “Just because they are in another country doesn’t mean we’re different.”
The thought of losing their own right to education was abhorrent to the students.
When asked how they would feel if someone took away their right to education, they used words such as “speechless” and “horrible.”
“When I hear stories like this, it’s crazy to think this could happen,” said student Dylan Marshall.
Student Jack Solecki suggested Yousafzai’s story gave him perspective.
“Unless something gets taken away, you don’t know how lucky you are to have it,” said Solecki. “It is a privilege to go to school or go outside without covering everything but your eyes.”
When the students decided they wanted to do something to create awareness of these issues, there was no question in their minds of how they would get their message out.
“A video can go anywhere and we thought it would bring more attention to the issue than posters (around the school). People all around the world could see a video,” said student Sophie Small. “They would see how serious this issue is and how people can change it if they just try.”
A video format, said Small, would likely appeal more readily to the students’ generation, which is important because they want their peers to be the leaders of change.
The students presented their video at an assembly to the entire school and they have now published it online.
And the students are not stopping there. They are already contemplating a follow up to Yousafzai’s story as well as videos on other international issues.
The students’ video can be found on the school’s website by visiting http://vkg.tldsb.on.ca/.