“Diversity is what defines our school and we are thankful to this project for the great benefits it brings us and for helping us realise that we can do much more in a structured way”. This quote by one of the teachers from our pilot schools captures the spirit of the public events facilitated by three schools - in Belgrade, Djurdjevo and Banatsko Novo Selo, as part of the Fostering a democratic school culture project.
Time and again, they proved that the implementation of the competences for democratic culture in their schools should be the way of life. As we were witnessing the remarkable engagement of local communities, parents and other educational institutions, we realised that our pilot schools are revolutionising the teaching process, teacher-student relationship and learning outcomes.
Both the elementary school "Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj" in Djurdjevo, a village in the municipality of Zabalj near Novi Sad, and the Secondary Vocational School, "Ugostiteljsko-turisticka" in Belgrade, marked the Day of Democracy on Friday, 19 October. Notwithstanding the fact that Belgrade is some 300 times larger than Djurdjevo, the magnificence of the two Democracy Days was equal - they were both an epitome of what a whole school plus community approach and engagement should look like.
The Belgraders, being a vocational school, presented what they did in terms of connecting with other schools and people; they emphasized the importance of improving their skills, but also their understanding of different cultures, values and beliefs. And they did it superbly. The Day was concluded by an engaging roundtable on the topics of the competences implementation. Djurdjevo, on the other hand, mobilised all their students and in a series of workshops, presentations and the entire programme succeeded in presenting the values that matter in the community and in the schools - tolerance, multiculturalism, togetherness. They showed how they did it and how they will continue to do it. As the principal of the school once put it, it is their “way of life”.
Banatsko Novo Selo is a village in administrative terms, even though it has some 6,000 citizens. On Saturday, 20 October, the elementary school Žarko Zrenjanin opened up their doors to the entire community and officially started the programme in both Serbian and Romanian languages. It was all about diversity and valuing cultural otherness. The hard work of teachers, parents and children was visible in the entire school as they presented the customs, people, and ways of life of many different cultures. It was a celebration and affirmation of multiculturalism and some 1,000 people had the chance to personally experience that through performances, simulations and different tasks. One thing was clear - Banatsko Novo Selo is a village with a lot of life!
With the events organized in the three schools and another event scheduled for 31 October at the Elementary School "Mika Anti" from Pancevo we will finalise the celebration of Democratic School Days in Serbia for 2018. It is, however, with eagerness and impatience that we await next year and new celebrations of democracy and the values that matter. And we are sure that with time the practice of celebrating the Democracy Day will spread to all schools around the country.
The Action “Fostering a democratic school culture” is part of the joint Horizontal Facility programme for the Western Balkans and Turkey, co-funded by the European Union and Council of Europe, and implemented by the Council of Europe.