The SKHC project
The Sharing Knowledge and Handling Controversy Project (SKHC), which was held in schools in Greece, North Macedonia and Bulgaria, is part of the Multilateral Co-operation Projects of the 6th Cycle of the CoE/EU Joint Programme “Democratic and Inclusive School Culture in Operation” (DISCO). The overall aim of the project is to respond to the common controversial issues that appear in the three neighbouring countries and to build a peaceful and inclusive school environment through jointly developing and applying appropriate educational practices and tools within school communities in the three countries. To succeed in this, the three partner countries build on the EU/CoE handling controversy training tool, “Managing controversy. Developing a strategy for handling controversy and teaching controversial issues in schools”.
Based on previous EU/CoE publications on handling controversies, partner countries train the local teaching community and come up with new educational material appropriate to facilitate upper primary and secondary school teachers which incorporate human rights and citizenship education in their everyday school practice.
Furthermore, through the project’s activities, school administrators, officials for educational planning and other regional or national educational stakeholders are motivated and supported in promoting democratic education using human rights education participatory methodology and techniques. The main aim of the project is to build a peaceful and democratic school environment, which is inclusive and participatory for all members of the school community.
Specifically, the project will impact educational policies and practices through:
- The introduction of non-formal education methodology and practices to the teaching community, with ensured participation and direct results.
- The involvement of official educational bodies run by the Ministry of Education in the three partner countries to ensure the promotion of a democratic and human rights-oriented school culture
- The empowerment of schools in adopting a community-based operating model including school teachers, directors, students as well as non-teaching school staff and parents, educational officials, CSOs related to education etc.
- The sustainability of the project through related educational programmes and activities run by school teachers with the support of the partner NGOs
- The sensitisation of the wider community concerning the importance of democratic education.
The project started in March of 2021 and will be completed in November 2021.
The Joint EU / CoE DISCO Programme
The Joint Programme provides funding to enable cooperation in at least three states within the framework of the European Cultural Convention in the fields of education for democratic citizenship and human rights education (EDC/HRE). At least one of the participating states should be a member of the European Union.
Each project must make available information on current democratic citizenship and help improve human rights education practices in the participating countries.
In addition, the Programme intends to:
Encourage discussions and the sharing of best practices for addressing EDC/HRE issues.
Raise awareness and increase visibility of the role of EDC/HRE at all levels of society.
Promote cooperation between national, regional and local authorities and civil society organisations.
- Contribute to the promotion and continued development of citizenship and human rights education in Europe
The main aim of ANTIGONE is to contribute to the development of a democratic, open society, capable of ensuring that everyone has access to decent living standards and quality of life.
The objectives of the organisation are the following:
- Assurance of equal opportunities and equal treatment for all people without discrimination in terms of gender, race, origin, social, economic, and educational level, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation etc.
- Information and awareness raising on issues related to human rights, social ecology, and non-violence as well as actions against racism, xenophobia, and any type of negative discrimination
- Improvement of the institutional, political, and social framework towards the integration and equal participation of all
- Active participation of people, collectives, and social groups in activities for the promotion of solidarity and respect for diversity
In pursuit of these objectives, ANTIGONE designs, develops, and implements various national and international projects and organises a wide range of voluntary activities. The organisation collaborates with organisations and actors that share a common vision, philosophy, and goals at a local, national, and international level. With the decisive participation of many board and staff members, volunteers and supporters ANTIGONE has been instrumental in developing activities inspired by a collective and holistic vision for people, society, and the planet as a whole.
As part of this mission, ANTIGONE implements projects including the vocational training of migrants and refugees, capacity building programmes for Roma youth, programmes for the professional and social empowerment of artists with disabilities and the psychosocial support of imprisoned women, among others. In collaboration with school communities all over Greece, the organisation implements various experiential educational programmes for teachers, students and parents / legal guardians. Furthermore, it runs various non-formal educational initiatives that take place not only at school but also under other frameworks such as European youth exchanges and volunteer training. It designs and implements participatory, interactive programmes of adult education in the fields of social ecology, degrowth, social entrepreneurship, etc. ANTIGONE participates in local and international networks where it jointly organises and participates in conferences, festivals, and other events. The Centre also organises the “Round Table Against Discrimination” that is held yearly in Athens, offering information on social integration, human rights, hate speech, and racism. The organisation has its own “ANTIGONE Editions” as well as an extensive electronic library, which is updated regularly. In Greece, ANTIGONE is the official Focal Point of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).
JHR is a non-governmental, non-partisan and non-profit organisation based in Skopje, North Macedonia. It was formed in 1996 as a non-formal group and registered in 1999 and is actively working to achieve greater transparency and objectivity in reporting. It also promotes children’s rights and gender equality, the greater understanding of women’s rights as human rights and aims at the elimination of discrimination against women in society and within their families, as well as striving to uphold the right to a clean environment.
Its aim is to bring together the citizens of Northern Macedonia with the aim of sharing information and fostering dialogue, while respecting traditional and moral values in the country, regardless of religion, language, sex.
JHR is active in eight sectors: Media; Sustainable Development and Environment; Gender equality; Social Entrepreneurship; Health; Youth and Employment; Rights of children; Tourism.
- The mission of JHR is to help the public to learn more about and to respect human rights.
- It envisions a strong civil society which fosters participatory respect of all community stakeholders and is achievable only through the information, communication, education.
- It promotes values such as peace and reconciliation, respect of human rights, respect for the dignity of every individual, reduction of poverty, equal opportunities, participation and promotion of socially responsible behaviour, professionalism and transparency
As part of its mission, JHR implements national and international projects that cover a wide range of social problems. The most important resource of the JHR is the large number of volunteers who are involved in its initiatives, and who, through all the activities that they participate in encourage citizens to reach out to each other. JHR activities bring together local people and the business community. Young people are one of the core target groups of JHR — projects promoting peace and non-violence are addressed to them. These are core values of the North Macedonian society and an important goal of JHR is the growth of peace education through its incorporation into the formal educational system or through non-formal educational programmes.
JHR reaches large audiences, as it also works with journalists, educating them by offering trainings on women’s and children’s rights, as well as seminars on the protection of the environment, health issues and peace journalism courses. The most important stakeholders of JHR are its users. Through direct help and addressing their basic needs, education, advocacy, participation, and other types of support, JHR aims to encourage its beneficiaries and motivate them to continue working on reducing poverty, strengthening the development of civil society, fighting for respect of human rights, against all forms of prejudice, marginalization, and discrimination.
JHR forms part of many international coalitions, and collaborates frequently with WECF (Women in Europe for a Common Future), CMC (Cluster Munition Coalition), ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), IANSA (International Action Network on Small Arms), IFEJ – (International Federation of Environmental Journalism), GREEN ACCORD (International Association of Journalists for Sustainable Development).
JHR is part of the expert team of UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) office on the protocol on water and health, the UNECE group of the Aarhus convention for access to information, public participation and access to justice on environmental matters, the UNECE office for transport, as well as the UNCCD for the protection of forests, an equal member of UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and actively involved in the ECPAT International Network for Child Protection.
Amalipe Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance is a leading Roma organisation working for the equal integration of Roma people in Bulgarian society. The organisation plays a central role in organising the Roma civic movement and advocates integration with state institutions. Amalipe Center is a member of the Public Council of the Ministry of Education and Science, the National Patient Organisation, the European Women’s Lobby and others. The chairman of the organisation, Deyan Kolev, was elected as a representative of Roma NGOs in the Monitoring Committee of the Operational Program “Science and Education for Smart Growth”, 2014 – 2020.
Amalipe Center believes in the equal integration of Roma people in society, based on the preservation of Roma identity and the modernisation of the Roma community. The community’s knowledge of its own history and culture is an important factor in raising its self-esteem. The introduction of civic values and the development of civic leadership in the Roma community will help to overcome social exclusion and marginalisation. Roma organisations working at the local and at the national level are a catalyst for the modernisation of the community as a whole – they express its needs and could actively participate in changing the existing policies, attitudes and prejudices towards the Roma community, which are embedded in institutions and society as a whole.
The mission of the Amalipe Center is to promote the active participation of Roma people in the social life of Bulgaria, the empowerment of the Roma community, and the achievement of equal access to:
- Access to quality education and other resources
- Quality healthcare and social services
To achieve these goals, Amalipe Center uses:
- Innovative methods and practices at the local level
- Regular monitoring, feedback, and advocacy to achieve changes in existing policies related to the social inclusion of Roma people
- Systematisation of the practical results of various organisations and their inclusion in the national policies for achieving effective results in the integration of the Roma community
- Mobilisation and organisation of the civic capacity of the Roma community in order to implement joint actions for successful integration
- Advocacy activities for the formation of a sustainable model for Roma integration, through the implementation of a policy of good practices tested at the local level
Amalipe Center is currently working on over 20 projects in the field of education, healthcare, provision of social services and support, funded by the European Commission, Operational Programmes, Trust for Social Achievement, UNICEF and others. Amalipe Center works with a network of over 250 schools across the country to reduce dropout rates, introduce intercultural education, promote lifelong learning in the Roma community and improve the educational status of Roma. An essential part of this activity is to encourage Roma parents to take an active part in school life, making the school a community centre. The organisation has established 14 Community Development Centres which promote the self-organisation of the Roma community in the six regions of Bulgaria. Each one of these centres works with a network of local community groups and has educational mediators, who are employed by the organisation or the respective schools and municipalities. Currently, nearly 30 educational mediators work at the Amalipe Center. In parallel, the Amalipe Center supports the work of over 250 educational mediators appointed by the schools in the “Every student will be a winner” Network.
In addition, the Amalipe Center cooperates with many Roma and non-Roma organisations from all over the country jointly organising activities with them in various fields such as education, health care, social services, doing advocacy campaigns for Roma integration, etc.
The three bordering countries face similar problems of in terms overcoming negative stereotypes, intolerance and discrimination. A lot of good practices could be implemented to promote non-formal education for democratic citizenship and human rights education as a solution. Developing democratic competences is a key element to creating an inclusive and supportive environment in the schools of the Balkan countries of Greece, North Macedonia and Bulgaria, where high levels of intolerance and discrimination is still a crucial issue at the national level.
The partnership was built to develop a joint targeted intervention for the prevention and the handling of violent conflicts due to on controversy within the school community, with an emphasis – but not solely- on the hatred reproduced among Greece, North Macedonia and Bulgaria. Based on long-term experience working with schools the conclusion is that there is still a high level of school violence due to prejudice. Managing controversy can be activated as a part of human rights and citizenship education appropriate for making school communities safe and inclusive spaces of self-expression, communication and collaboration.
Stereotypes and prejudice in many cases are expressed by teachers (mainly in terms of gender, sexual orientation, nationality, race etc.) and keep on being reproduced without being addressed. In their vast majority, school community members are aware of cases of school violence but select not to act since they believe“someone else should”. Also, students who attack their peers used to be targets themselves previously in their school life (vicious circle of violence). Bullying and school violence due to prejudice is a reality in every school environment and needs to be prevented and solved through peaceful communication and in democratic ways.
Given the situation, which is common in all three partner countries, the SKHC project is an opportunity to educate teachers on how to recognise controversial issues within their school environment and educate their students using human rights education as an opportunity to bring school members closer together. The project is relevant, especially nowadays, in a period when mutual hatred seems to be on the rise. It is necessary to deepen the student-parent-teacher model in order to increase everyone’s commitment to the educational process. The project will support the inclusion of students in local schools and also encourage parents and teachers to work together in preventing exclusion. The project’s activities will contribute to the development of an inclusive school environment free of of violent conflicts where students, teachers, families, and local community will be able to peacefully resolve conflicts democratically and with respect to human rights. Negative stereotypes poisoning the relationships between students, principals, and students form part of a serious problem that needs to be overcome.
The three NGOs of this project, have a strong presence in the school networks of the three bordering countries and therefore have a significant advocacy role for integrating educational policies and non-formal education in the public educational service. Non-formal education is one of the most efficient educational methods for including all children, youth and adults in the educational process on an equal basis, can help bring changes in their behavioural patterns, their motivation, communication and ideas. The three NGOs will keep in contact with the participant schools, re-evaluate the situation on a regular basis and communicate with schools and relevant stakeholders periodically, in order to check and follow up results, changes and improvement.
Through the experiences gained in this project, the participating NGOs promote the principles of human rights and citizenship education as an effective means to handle controversy. Educational stakeholders in different fields and regions will form networks and jointly design and implement democratic citizenship and human rights activities. The results from the school workshops will be presented at a final conference and conclusions will be drawn as to what are best practices and so inspire the audience consisting of educators to apply these practices in their own schools.
Objectives/ Target groups
- NGOs of Greece, North Macedonia and Bulgaria develop a common participatory methodology and educational tools for human rights education and addressing controversy for local school communities.
- Local teaching communities and national administrators, school principals, and teachers, in the three countries are empowered in their efforts to address controversy in schools and to put into practice non- formal education on human rights.
- Local school communities become aware of the relevance of human rights in managing controversial issues.
- Non-formal education for human rights becomes mainstream teaching practice in the three countries.
The main target groups of the project are primary and secondary education teachers and school principals in Greece, North Macedonia, and Bulgaria. The project also addresses decision-makers in educational planning, school administrators, pedagogical advisors, school psychologists, educational mediators, educational experts, and any other interested educational stakeholders in each country.
- The “Managing Controversy” training tool has been written in Greek and is being translated into Macedonian and It is printed and widely disseminated in educational communities in Greece, North Macedonia and Bulgaria.
- An eight-hour training curriculum based on “Managing Controversy” toolkit is jointly developed by the partner organisations’ educational experts during a 4-day This common curriculum is designed by taking into consideration the three countries’ local contexts, policies, controversies, existing good practices, expectations and needs.
- Twenty-four eight-hour online training workshops for the teaching community are organised in various geographical regions of the three partner countries (8 in Greece, 8 in NM, 8 in Bulgaria).
- The present educational toolkit is produced in four languages (English, Greek, Macedonian, Bulgarian).
- Three Electronic Tools (one per partner country) including information on handling controversy as well as pedagogical material related to human rights education are being developed for each country.
- Information on the project activities and the content is disseminated on the partners’ websites and social media accounts, as well as via articles, interviews
- One Final Event for networking and dissemination of results among the three partner countries takes
The expected results
It is expected that with its completion the project will have made a positive impact towards the development of a more democratic, participatory, and inclusive school that is run according to the principles of human rights and peace.
- Teachers in various regions of Greece, North Macedonia and Bulgaria are trained to handle controversy through human rights education activities and initiatives
- Participant teachers in the SKHC project activities offer human rights related programs in their schools in an effort to prepare the ground for handling controversy in democratic and inclusive ways
- Children and adolescent students learn how to communicate their feelings and thoughts democratically and peacefully among their peer groups, gradually becoming active democratic citizens
- Educational officials, administrators and other educational stakeholders related to educational planning are given a chance to understand the importance of human rights education and press for its introduction into the official school systems of Greece, North Macedonia, and Bulgaria
- Local school communities actively participate and become more open to collaboration with local CSOs,local actors, community actors, etc.