Keeping a close watch: Students present on human rights abuses

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Sunday, February 21, 2016 7:37pm
  • News

Thursday morning, before all of his peers at River City Academy, Edmund Johnson issued a call to action.

It was his own solution to the unguided aerial missiles Saudi Arabia aimed and fired at the Al Noor Center for Care and Rehabilitation of the Blind, which reduced the structure to rubble earlier this year.

The event took place half-a-world away, but Johnson brought it a little closer to home during his presentation at River City Academy’s Eighth Human Rights Summit.

“Use social media as your weapon,” Johnson said, reappropriating use of the powerful tool he and his peers have at their fingertips daily.

Al Noor was the only center in the entire country that provided services to students with disabilities, Johnson said.

And now, they have nowhere to go. Where will they get an education, he wondered.

Johnson wasn’t the only one of his peers publicly asking the same question Thursday.

Inadequate education was a commonality among many of the summit’s nearly two-dozen presentations that were graded and rated by a student-teacher panel of judges.

Kylin Welch discussed the number of children in Africa who have minimal access to learning.

“I didn’t think it was just about education,” Welch said. “It was also the future of Africa.”

Before Welch began researching the subject, he said he had little understanding of the situation, and even less that he could do something about it.

River City History teacher Anna Karron, who organizes the now biennial summit, said one student used her call to action to request her peers not overlook the education that they do receive.

“So many people around the world that don’t have that opportunity,” Karron said. “It is not something that a lot of people around the world get to do.”

One outcome of the project is that students often gain broader understanding of global issues, and where they may fit in to a larger community than the local one they are most familiar with, Karron said.

A few presentations this year focused on the conflict in the Middle East, Karron said. Students that take a more in-depth look at specific cases see the direct impact war has on civilians, including children who may never get an education, or even learn to read, she said.

They find out all of the players, and look into which Non-Governmental Organizations, or NGOs, help repair the communities or look into prosecution of those involved, Karron said.

Through his research, Johnson found out the United States and United Kingdom sold Saudi Arabia the weapons that were used in the bombings on Al Noor.

Not all of the information was easy for students to find.

Karron said the Hans Hesse had the top scoring presentation this year.

He talked about the rape epidemic in Germany, which was the hardest subject to research because so few media outlets were talking about it, she said.

“That was one of the neat things in his presentation, this is why independent media was so important,” Karron said. “BBC was the only place to find information. Nobody was reporting on it.”

Deanne Pearson, a math teacher at River City Academy, said she sneaks in to watch the presentations every year they are held. She always hears a few new topics, and many students surprise her with their stage presence.

“When we have a type of presentation like this, the kids really step it up,” Pearson said. “…I think it takes them out of our little bubble of Soldotna and lets them know what is really going on in the world.


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