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A GROUP of Melksham Oak students have launched a campaign to raise awareness in the community about the issue of racism.
Using their own experiences of racism, the students are encouraging people to think about the language that they use when talking about ethnic minority groups, which the group of students say is often dismissed as ‘just a joke’ or ‘banter’.
The campaign began when Year 10 student, Briana Wilmot, wrote a letter to Melksham Oak’s headteacher, Stephen Clark, and the school’s pastoral manager, Kinna Curtis, who said, “She expressed her feelings that there was a lot of unaddressed racism in the community and that she felt that this was something we needed to take notice of and take seriously.”
Briana explained, “I wrote about how behind closed doors there is a lot of issues surrounding racism and that a lot of people are being hurt by this, but some of us don’t feel comfortable to report it.”
For the campaign, Briana was joined by fellow Year 10 students Amani Howe, Ttyme Jemmott and Mary Wise and Year 8 student Abigail Maritiro, who have all experienced racism in some form. “It’s hard being a different minority in this school – we’re like a fly in milk, we stand out,” said Mary.
The students have been delivering their message in school assemblies and have plans to increase awareness of racism to parents of Melksham Oak students and the wider community.
“We thought the assembly would be a bigger platform for us to utilise our voices and spread the message and make other students aware that their words are harmful,” said Briana. “People in school really took it well – and the feedback was very positive.”
As a result of the group’s campaign, the school has introduced an anonymous way of reporting incidents of racism.
Pastoral manager, Kinna said, “The issue that we were worried about was that if we didn’t know it was happening, we couldn’t address it. Students don’t always feel comfortable reporting when something happens, as they don’t know what the backlash will be from other students.
“So we came up with a way for students to report incidents anonymously. So now we have an incident reporting box, which we will keep in the library, to encourage people to speak out a little bit more.”