Wednesday, December 8, 2021

An article on


In times of serious interethnic tensions, it is of great importance to work on overcoming or at least reducing stereotypes and prejudices, especially among young people. With this purpose, the Macedonian Civic Education Center (MCEC), with the support of USAID, is implementing the Interethnic Integration in Education Project, whose chief of party is Nebojsa Mojsoski.
This is not the first attempt to bring together young people for different ethnic communities in Macedonia. How is your Project for Interethnic Integration in Education different from other projects?

Different projects have been implemented and are being implemented in order to improve the interethnic relations. And it is to be praised, not only because multiethnicity makes our country richer, but because the good relations between citizens and respect for diversity is the main pillar on which we should build the present and future of Macedonia. The USAID Interethnic Integration in Education Project is being implemented by the Macedonian Center for Civic Education (MCEC) in collaboration with seven local NGOs and has a holistic approach in order to work on creating a political, social and economic climate needed for Macedonia to reach a sustainable ethnic integration, not only in the education system but in the whole society as well. The project started in 2011, and will last until 2015, which is a period of four years of implementing activities with the goal of improving the interethnic integration in the education in this country. We work in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Science and the educational institutions (Bureau for Development of Education, Vocational Education and Training Center, the State Education Inspectorate) encompassing all primary and secondary schools in Macedonia, as well as all municipalities. Besides the cooperation with the institutions, schools and municipalities, the project includes the parents as one of the supporting pillars in the process of raising children.

Do young people accept the ideas that you offer easily or is there some resistance?

At the beginning, when the present project activity is being introduced, there is a certain amount of reluctance for mutual cooperation. But, with the direct contact, which gives children the opportunity to work on creating a certain product, the barriers fall. The experience that we have had with the project so far firmly assures us and shows us that, when students are provided with good conditions and opportunities for communication and collaboration, there is no other obstacle for cooperation. They share their interests and needs unselfishly, discuss issues affecting them, make friends on the social networks and expand their circle of friends, go out for coffee, and similar things.

And what is the attitude of the schools and the teachers?

Schools and teachers welcomed this initiative, since the very beginning, and assessed it as much needed, because, for the first time in Macedonia, a project is working systematically on building the capacities of all teachers and schools’ management for interethnic integration in education. The schools are aware that this is the only way they can convey their knowledge to the younger generations, by using approaches and methodologies that promote interethnic collaboration. In this process, the advisors from the Bureau for Development of Education, Centre for Vocational Education and Training and the educational inspectors at national and regional level have a central role in achieving a sustainable change and participate in activities for capacity building of teachers and the professional service staff. They understand the importance of interethnic integration in education and behave responsibly towards this Project, in order to achieve long term and sustainable success. One of the indicators that verify the commitment and interest of the schools and teachers is the attendance on trainings that we organize. In the past year, all schools attended them with a maximum number of teachers.

Does the first encounter between teenagers from different nationalities cause some kind of a shock, positive or negative? For example, when you make a joint activity between schools from Strumica and Tetovo.

In the first year of implementation of the project activities, we worked on strengthening the capacities of schools for interethnic integration in education. We need to prepare the teachers before we start activities with students on a wider level. We plan to work with students and their cooperation within different municipalities. We had a small number of pilot activities with students in the first year, as part of the debate clubs and creative workshops. The experience from working with these students showed us that the presence of stereotypes, prejudices and grouping according to ethnicity is evident at the beginning of the activities. However, as the activity develops, students get to know each other, communicate, collaborate and briefly function as a group, rather than as ethnicity. It is crucial to have good teachers who guide students to work on a specific product that they regards as their own, and not imposed by the project and the school.

You had a very successful experience of joint activity between young Macedonians and Albanians in the secondary school “Arsenij Jovkov”. What did these students actually work on?

Exactly. This experience showed how children can work and socialize, without focusing on the fact that they belong to one or another ethnicity, or that they speak in different languages. Art and creativity are always a challenge and a way for every young person to express his/her knowledge, skills, needs, and interests; to recognize what is good and what is not good; to realize that diversity is actually not an obstacle but an advantage that our society is built upon. Their deeds weigh more than a million words. I invite you to view the short films that the children themselves created, which are posted on our web site, and that say a lot of things that need to be said- These students have shown us not how it can be, but how it SHOULD BE!

Has the time come, or will it come soon, when young people will be able to speak openly, without any negative emotions, about some painful subjects, such as the conflict from 2001?

Our goal with this project is not just to raise awareness that we live in a multiethnic and multicultural country, but, through new integrated methodologies and approaches in the educational system, to enable young people to openly and jointly discuss various subjects, share their interests and needs, to get accustomed to diversity and not only respect it, but also consider it a valuable asset. In any case, you need to be able to speak openly about emotions, regardless of the type of emotion. I believe that the real challenge in our society is to discuss not only the negative but rather the positive emotions that are present, but we somehow forget about. We are convinced that education is a great field for discussion and exchange of experiences and contacts among young people on this subject. The project, together with all stakeholders in the education system, implements activities that lead to change, where the need for discussion of painful topics filled with negative emotions will be reduced to a minimum – in fact, it is the only path in the democratic process of building and nurturing joint values that we all strive for.

It’s no secret that there are young Albanians that speak Macedonian poorly or do not speak it at all, due to the geographic location, the fact that their whole education is in their native language, or even because of the television programs coming from Albania and Kosovo.

How serious is this problem, that can further cause incomprehension and misunderstanding between the young generations?

The language is a communication tool, and in shouldn’t be an obstacle to the implementation of activities in schools, in this project as well as other school activities. Macedonia is a wealthy country in terms of the number of languages that are spoken in this region. The problem of not knowing the language will be overcome with the desire to learn about “the other” and the growing number of direct contacts among the youth. The project works with all primary and secondary schools in Macedonia, and is mostly focused on the implementation of joint student activities. With that we believe we will influence any manifestations that lead to segregation, to the lack of knowledge of another language of another ethnic community, unfamiliarity with the other cultures, tradition, customs etc. While implementing the activities, its out practice to have all the materials in the languages ​​of instruction, as well as to provide interpretation for participants who want to express themselves in their own language.

Will you have some activities to familiarize Macedonians with the way of life, language, culture, customs … of the Albanians?
The whole approach of our project is mutual. We all learn about each other and from each other. Part of the Project activities is focused on these issues. Getting to know the similarities and differences of the “others” is the basis for overcoming stereotypes and prejudices that are present.

What about other ethnic communities? Are they included in your project?
USAID Interethnic Integration in Education Project is for every part of Macedonia, for all primary and secondary schools, all municipalities. When we say that, it means we do not see Macedonia as a bi-ethnic society in which only Macedonians and Albanians live, but a multi-ethnic society in which all other ethnic communities belong. By including and fostering their values, we send a message how the whole country should be seen and cherished. We all belong here, and we all share the good things and the bad things. It is a wealth and a challenge for all of us.

What can we expect next from PMIO in the near future?
USAID Interethnic Integration in Education Project each week has different activities. Teams for school integration are formed in the new 41 municipalities and schools, training for dissemination of knowledge and skills within schools are being prepared, model schools teach students about democratic participation, we will strengthen the capacity of teachers to guide children’s creative processes within schools, and so on. The Project in the past year conducted a field research in terms of inter-ethnic integration in education in Macedonia. In this survey 99 percent of schools in the country participated. Soon we will present the results of this research which are very interesting and useful. This is just a small segment of the overall plan for this period. By following our website, every citizen will be able to follow what is happening currently and what will follow in the future. By sharing our experiences and positive examples we want to encourage all citizens to believe that interethnic integration in education is the foundation and the obligation of all of us for a brighter future of Macedonia. Improving the interethnic integration in education needs a lot of work, at all levels and above all, it needs time. Improving interethnic integration is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. If there is a formula as how it should be done that would be – perseverance, faith, self-sacrifice, openness, commitment, belief in a better tomorrow and a lot, lot of work with “others”, and above all with ourselves.


You can follow the original text on this link – When youngsters collaborate and create together, interethnic barriers decline — article on by the USAID Interethnic Integration in Education Project Chief of Party Nebojsa Mojsoski