Friday, July 30, 2021

A lesson to remember: Speaking different languages can not stop us from being friends

IMG_9744

Forty-seven students from primary schools “Dituria” from Lipkovo and “Vuk Karadzic” from Kumanovo taught adults a lesson to be remembered: speaking a different language or coming from a different ethnic background is not a hindrance to friendship, fun, and cooperation. On the contrary, integrating people of different cultures, languages or beliefs is the epitome of harmony and splendor. Just like the mixed folk-dance performed by students from the two partner schools, integration is beautiful, colorful but also quintessential for the dance to go round.

On April 16, while teachers and students from Lipkovo were visiting their colleagues and friends from the partner school in Kumanovo and conducting their planned joint IMG_9710activities, the IIEP team had the opportunity to talk to a group of these students. When asked if they would make friends with children of different ethnic backgrounds outside of school, the children shouted a “yes”. A first-grader of Roma ethnicity, said “I have many Albanian and Macedonian friends, we play ball together all the time”, when asked if language hindered their communication, he said “I speak a little Albanian, and if we can’t understand each other, we use mimics”.

As a product of a three-month close collaboration, teachers from the two primary schools came up with an integrated acting and dance performance and numerous fun workshops for the students. In ethnically mixed groups, the children took part in a variety of activities, such as: coloring Easter eggs and decorating cards, learning about traditional folk-dances, playing volleyball, visiting the water cleaning station, and other. The psychologist from “Dituria” told the IIEP team that “the students couldn’t sleep from excitement, they would come to my office everyday to ask me ‘when will we go to that other school?’”, she also added that this sort of activities is what makes the concept of integration tangible to children and that there should be more of these activities.

IMG_9693

Several parents had come to help with the activities and to support the concept of interethnic integration in education. One parent told the IIEP team: “I would love to see my child study in a mixed environment; after all, we are all the same, aren’t we?!”

Untarnished from social constructions which divide and segregate people of different backgrounds, these youngsters coming from two different schools, with different languages of instruction and ethnic backgrounds, enjoyed having spent a whole day together. They could not hide their eagerness to meet up again in the future, when the students from “Vuk Karadzic” will pay a return visit to “Dituria”.

Building these kinds of partnerships and organizing joint activities through mutual visits between partner schools is one of the core activities of USAID’s Project for Interethnic Integration in Education (IIEP). The aim of these activities is to acquaint youngsters from different schools with different ethnic composition and include them in activities that relate to their interest, aspiring that these encounters will strengthen the skills of students and schools staff and the professional collaboration among the schools, contribute to better understanding of diversity and better interethnic integration, and, why not, as it has happened frequently in this project, blossom into longstanding friendships.