Hello! My name is Husayn Jamal, newly elected and appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | La Fédération des Élèves du Secondaire au Canada (FCSS-FESC) for the 2016-2017 academic year. It is my immense honour and privilege to serve the secondary school students in provinces and territories across Canada. This will be my fourth and final year with the Federation, and I cannot wait to begin our work to make the education system better in this great country we all call home.
Our Mission Has Not Changed
From the outset, our mission and dedication to secondary students across Canada has not, and will not, change. We remain committed to upholding the tenets of Assistance, Engagement, and Voice. For each of these essential pillars, we will be introducing a new programme or service that we hope will have a direct and measurable impact on Canadian secondary students across the country. We will be relying on ongoing support and input from students just like you — those who care deeply about education policy and student voice — to help us develop our offerings while remaining even more open, transparent, and accountable to those we serve.
The Assistance pillar is one of the oldest parts of our mission and has already done an immeasurable amount of good, including the annual “Inspire, Collaborate, Excel (ICE),” conference, intended to motivate students to engage in academic studies related to STEM, arts, entrepreneurship, and social activism. “Opportunities Fair,” gives students the opportunity to forge connections with postsecondary institutions, employers, and other nonprofits. We want to do more than just host events, however. We want to proactively help students resolve issues and disputes they may encounter in their school, their district board, and even their province.
It is essential that we as the FCSS-FESC recognize, though the current state of education in Canada is not abysmal, that there is considerable space for improvement. One of the best ways to correct ongoing problems and obstacles to a fruitful, fulfilling, and whole-person education is to bring attention to these obstacles and propose a means of having them be corrected or removed to ensure that students truly enjoy their years while in secondary school, regardless of their interests and abilities.
Ongoing development of the eduALERT system will allow secondary school students to report cases when they feel their rights as a student have been violated. The eduALERT system will accept reports concerning but not limited to; religious proselytizing, unfair or inappropriate academic assessment, discriminatory practices and behaviour, policies presenting barriers to student expression, and many more. Once reported, the FCSS-FESC will take action and send a formal letter of request to help correct the circumstances.
Engaging as many students as possible must remain a central part of our mission. This year, we will officially be expanding into Quebec and British Columbia with focus on Montreal and Vancouver. It is not enough to expect that the education climate in every province will be the same and that students from Ontario can reasonably advocate for issues affecting students in other critical regions in Canada. Engagement means obtaining broad and diverse perspectives and allowing them to culminate into a unified front to create a more welcoming, inclusive, safe, and enjoyable education environment for all students in Canada.
It is critical to our mission that we engage with as many stakeholders as possible when forming an official position or working to advocate for better education in provinces and territories across Canada. The FCSS-FESC will immediately be undertaking steps to establish new divisions in our specified target regions of Montreal (Quebec) and Vancouver (British Columbia). These cities, and the provinces as a whole, represent novel opportunities to begin the process of unifying student voice behind a common purpose. Every Canadian secondary student flying the same banner.
Aggressive recruitment and targeting strategies have already begun to ensure that secondary students in these provinces are informed about the organization, and an ongoing communications and messaging strategy has been implemented to attract student leaders with a broad array of interests in these regions to join their provincial executive teams, taking leadership directly from the National Leadership Team (more formally known as the College of Chief Officers) on slowly but consciously expanding the reach and influence of FCSS-FESC in these areas.
At its core, the Voice pillar of our Mission has always been about delivering the student perspective to government stakeholders as well as the public. It is easy to become disconnected from issues affecting students, especially for those no longer in school. For those who are still pursuing their secondary-level education, it is far too common that students can become apathetic to the issues affecting them on a day-to-day basis. We want to restore the power to students to have a meaningful voice in their education, and we will endeavour to lay the foundation for a new programme designed to help students feel safe and protected in their learning environment.
A Student's Bill of Rights
With the purpose of the Voice pillar in mind, we will, along with our partners and affiliates, undertake research and roundtable sessions with students, parents, and education stakeholders across Canada with the intention of developing a Bill of Rights outlining specifically what students are entitled to and the services, treatment, and standards they should expect in every educational environment. This Bill of Rights is meant to apply to every secondary school student, in every province across Canada.
Each Operational Division of the FCSS-FESC will submit a copy of the Bill of Rights to the provincial/territorial Minister of Education with an invitation to affix their signature to the Bill of Rights, acting as an instrument of ratification which will then be submitted to the FCSS-FESC who will act as the designated depository for the document. This signature indicates that the Minister of Education and their office acknowledges and agrees to endeavour to uphold its tenets to the best of their abilities.
I am incredibly excited to begin work with the FCSS-FESC this year, and I would encourage every student to join our team. We truly will deliver the student voice to education stakeholders, not only at the local and provincial levels, but on the national stage as well. Our research will inform the next generation of education policy and we will ensure that the effort of no student ever goes to waste. I certainly hope you'll join me on this journey, and I am always willing to receive comments and feedback on how we're doing!