Interview with Daniela Adamova: Democracy is learned through practicing democracy, not only through books and lectures

The USAID Youth Ethnic Integration Project actively cooperates with all municipalities in the process of improving interethnic cohesion in the schools and developing democratic values among young people. In cooperation with the City of Skopje and the OSCE Mission to Skopje, at the end of December, 2018, a training for teachers was held for the realization of joint classes with students studying in different languages of instruction.
Read the interview with Daniela Adamova, the Head of the Education Department within the City of Skopje and learn more.

Daniela Adamova, Head of the Education Department within the City of Skopje

As the Head of the Education Department within the City of Skopje, you follow the work of the municipal secondary schools in the city. What is the role of the schools in developing democratic values among young people?

The role of the school is instrumental, primarily because the school is the place where young people spend most of the day, a place where they acquire academic knowledge, but also social skills and abilities that help them connect to other people and develop their attitude towards the outside world. This is especially important for the secondary school students. It is precisely through such relations that the secondary school students solve their identity concerns and dilemmas with respect to who they are and what kind of persons they want to become.

Hence, it is very important to recognize the type of information and patterns of behavior they face in school and whether they promote positive values, such as solidarity, tolerance, acceptance of diversity, empathy and accountability to others. If the school fosters a climate of acceptance and democratic membership of all members of the school community, then such values will be close and acceptable for every individual.  Democracy is learned through practicing democracy, not only through books and lectures.

The municipal support of the school in the realization of activities for interethnic integration is very important. How does the City of Skopje support schools in improving interethnic integration among students?

The City of Skopje has an increasingly active role in furthering interethnic integration and serves as its promoter. I will illustrate this with a few examples.

In the program of the City of Skopje for activities in secondary education, interethnic integration is one of our primary goals and it covers several activities facilitating this process of connecting young people – joint workshops, choir, tribunes, research, etc.

This also means logistical, financial and professional assistance to the schools implementing the school projects for interethnic integration of young people.

With the training for the realization of joint classes that is currently taking place, we, in fact, elevate this process of connecting and encouraging cooperation among young people to an even higher level by allowing students to attend the regular teaching process together. It is about preparing the teachers to realize joint classes for several common school subjects. These are subjects whose teaching contents entail greater interaction, such as sport, practical classes in a number of vocational education subjects, English and French classes…

How important is the mutual cooperation of the educational institutions and the partnership with the civil sector in promoting interethnic integration among young people?

The interethnic integration is not an isolated process, exclusively related to the schools alone. It is conditioned by a number of social factors, hence the cooperation with the other education institutions such as the Ministry of Education and Science with its professional bodies is natural and necessary.

The City of Skopje is trying to build partnerships with all of them, but especially with the civil sector, which in a most immediate way gives support to the schools, providing them with adequate expert and financial support. Support is also provided to a number of projects initiated by students, which are part of the local policies and actions for the development of education. That is why we have developed direct cooperation with the non-governmental organizations.

The training for the realization of joint classes is attended by around 40 teachers from four secondary schools in the City of Skopje. What is the purpose of the training and what do you expect after its completion?

The purpose of this training is manifold. First of all, it is of utmost importance that the teachers who are the main leaders of this initiative receive the necessary professional preparation – appropriate skills and competences to work in a classroom with other colleagues and students from different ethnic background. Multiculturalism requires us to have adequate knowledge, but also positive attitudes towards different cultures, languages and beliefs.

On the other hand, it is very important for the teachers to understand that they are not alone in this process and that they have the support of all relevant stakeholders in the educational process.  That is precisely what we aim to build and provide. These teachers are faced with a serious task – to achieve the mandatory cognitive and teaching goals and at the same time work on connecting and encouraging cooperation among students who might not know each other, have their own personal reservations, or even prejudices.

This is a very sensitive process and that is why it is important for the teachers participating in this training to acquire or further develop their knowledge about teamwork, the students’ habits, to develop appreciation of differences, to learn to balance the use of languages, in order to ensure equality and respect for each individual. In this way, students will be able to have their own personal experiences about the “others”, feel the benefits of the multicultural atmosphere in the schools and feel much safer being part of it.

What would be your message to the teachers attending this training?

To continue being open to new experiences and knowledge and to believe that with their honest and dedicated effort in this process, the interethnic integration can move in the right direction. To never forget that only by being role models, promoting themselves as positive models of identification, can they lead young people though this exceptionally exciting process.

This article is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of MCEC and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.