Τeachers and professors of any school level try to share knowledge and skills among their students and mainly focusing on theoretical approaches. But does the school teach peaceful coexistence and communication between people from different origin? Does it teach the children to accept every peer’s diversity, to treat equally each gender and to peacefully resolve conflicts that occur between them?
ActionAid Hellas in cooperation with ANTIGONE Information and Documentation Center for Racism, Ecology, Peace and Non-Violence (ANTIGONE) undertakes trainings for future teachers and professors via a non-formal educational approach. Under the program Faces of Migration and the project Human Rights Education for Sustainability of Multicultural Communities (HRESMC), funded by the European Union, two groups of students from the Department of Philosophy and Education of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, coordinated by their professor Olga Pantouli, are being trained by the educators of ANTIGONE, Christos Papalexiou, Sofia Kiprianidou and Athanasia Telliou. The goal is to learn about the meaning of inclusion, equality and empathy and to practise alternative techniques for peaceful communication and conflict management such as school mediation.
From October 2020 to May 2021, the non-formal education trainers of ANTIGONE organized a 40-h training program for each university students’ group, focusing on human rights issues. Specifically, the thematic sections have been: human rights & children rights, prejudice and racism, gender identities, peaceful conflict resolution – school mediation. School mediation involves a peaceful and cooperative settlement of conflicts and quarrels among children.
The training took place mainly through a set of experiential activities such as simulation and role-playing games, creative writing activities, quizzes etc. With the completion of their training program, it was important that university students had the chance to practice new skills addressing groups of children and youth through educational workshops they coordinated themselves.
Unfortunately, only a few meetings were held in person, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, ANTOGONE’s team responded effectively by reforming the educational material so as to interactively run online. Students’ interest remained unshakable during the online workshops and their active participation in the activities contributed to the creation of a pleasant and safe space of team work. Some of the participants’ evaluation comments reveal their positive feelings from this experience.
“The atmosphere was so friendly and ideal for conversation and reflection.”
“I expressed my opinion without feeling like my heart will break of anxiety.”
“My participation was the motivation so I would love even more the subject I study, which is the education.”
“I formed more thoughts of love for every human and I erased many fallouts of stereotypes and social prejudices.”
“It prepared us with material that we can use as future educators, which is very important and it isn’t covered effectively by the education programs of the University.”
As mentioned above, participating students had the opportunity to coordinate human rights workshops in schools and with youth groups at the Prefectures of Imathia and Thessaloniki (Municipality of Thermi). This pilot activity enabled them practice and “test” their new competence and skills communicating the message for peaceful coexistence in a multicultural society. More than 100 young people and students participated in the workshops, with the evaluation comments being more than encouraging:
“I liked that we talked about stereotypes and that we learned that now and then we may be wrong when judging by appearance.”
“It was so nice that I didn’t realize how the time passed. My attention was focused in the conversation we were having. We want to thank you for coming to our school, what we did was very essential.”
“The conversation was very helpful. I cleared in my mind many things, many questions of mine were answered, and I expanded my horizons.”
The cycle of the program was completed on Wednesday 9 June 2021 with an online event where project’s activities and results were presented. After that, students coordinated three participatory educational workshops for the event’s audience under the thematic sections: “Prejudices and Racism”, “Children Rights” and “Gender Identities”. In the evaluation phase, participants by the audience pointed out as advantages the interaction and the polyphony during the workshops.
Lastly, during June 2021 a project’s report including the positive results of the project’s activities will be sent to the Ministry of Education as well as to local and civil society entities working in the field of education, youth and culture.
Apparently, non-formal education has many positive results for all school community members (students, teachers, parents, school staff etc.) related to their sensitization and mobilization towards issues that affect their close and broad social circles, a matter that according to the participants lacks to be effectively addressed under the formal educational system. It is indeed an innovative way of learning, which through ANTIGONE’s projects is already applied to many Greek schools and is worth to expand.