Monday, April 6, 2009

The Conference in Bosnia

I have been wanting to write a post about the conference in Bosnia for awhile now, and have been putting it off because of lack of time and because I still don't really know how to write about my experience in a blog post. So, this is an attempt, and it will be too long.

Attending the conference "Where Peace Begins: The Pivotal Role of Education for Lasting Peace" was an invaluable experience because it brought a lot of what I am learning in a classroom and through reading into reality. The reality is that development and conflict resolution are both a challenge and trying to figure out a "right way" is nearly impossible. Even the experts don't really know. That is both frustrating and liberating. Peacebuilding is most of the time very contextual. People try the best they can and sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail. At the same time, it was very empowering to sit in a room of "experts" and realize that they didn't have all the answers and that I had something to contribute. Within this specific topic, I think that I provide the perspective of one who hasn't been in the field for a long time, one who has classroom teaching experience, and one who could actually still be considered a "youth," depending on the definition. Also, in meeting with this group of "experts," I came to gain a whole new respect and admiration for the teaching profession, those who are working in the classrooms trying to mold lives everyday.

The topic of the conference is pretty much what I am writing my whole capstone project on, so I can't really summarize it for you because I have been researching it quite a bit lately. Topics revolved around peace education, schools as models for reconciliation, the prevalence of a "war-culture curriculum," involving education in peace agreements, and many more.

Because words always fail me, here are some pictures:

Here is the man who is second to the mayor of Sarajevo. He wants Sarajevo to be a "city of children" and a "city of youth," and discussed the phenomenon in Bosnia of "two schools under one roof." Many schools in Bosnia are segregated based on ethnicity, so one group may meet in the morning and a different group in the afternoon. This is something that was established after the war. While not every school is like this, it occurs often and was nonexistent before the war began in 1992.
Here are some pictures from the first school we visited in Sarajevo. This school was an integrated school with all ethnicities represented in the student body and faculty. This picture is from an eighth grade history classroom, where the teacher to student ratio was 1:21. Ha, what a joke that we can't even manage that in the United States! History is the most contested subject within the Bosnian curriculum. There are different textbooks for different ethnic groups, and none of them include the time period of the war.
This girl is student body president. She emphasized her school's focus on "personality not nationality," and said that mentality was present among most of the students.This is the principal. He discussed how he really tried to create a multicultural school. Right when the war ended, he hired a Serb to teach history, and that was not the norm at the time. Now, the teacher he hired is on a curriculum committee at the government level to create a textbook that is acceptable to all groups. Obviously, this was one of the better schools in the area.
Here was the second school we visited in Sarajevo. Once again, small class sizes. The U.S. could learn something from Bosnia.
This class had prepared a presentation for us. The students were fourth graders and they presented about what the UN does and specifically told us what their rights as children were under the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child. Every student in the class presented.
This is a boy presenting about children's rights that are protected under the UN.This girl was quite inspirational. At the end of the presentation, the students were able to share anything they wanted with us, and she stood up and wanted to make sure we knew the importance of educating girls. At the end, the students passed out thank you cards, and this girl gave me a card. I see a future woman leader here.Here are some photos of the conference, put on by Save the Children and the Norweigan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This first picture is David Skinner, director of Save the Children's Rewrite the Future campaign.
The government of Bosnia hosted the conference and offered this nice place in their Parliament.Overall, I was very honored to get to be a part of the conference.

And, if for some reason you are still reading this, and are curious to learn a little more about the Rewrite the Future campaign, here is a video they showed us at the conference.

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