Interview with Nazihtere Sulejmani on the grants for organizing activities that contribute to the development and promotion of multiculturalism, interethnic integration and tolerance

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Primary and secondary schools across the country that implement joint student activities for development and promotion of multiculturalism, interethnic integration and tolerance can apply for grants awarded by the Ministry of Education and Science. They are aimed at promoting good practises for activities based on respecting differences, while building a multi-ethnic and multicultural society.

Financial support for the schools for implementation of such curricular and extracurricular student activities and initiatives was provided within the USAID Interethnic Integration in Education Project that was implemented in the period 2012-2017 and then through the USAID Youth Ethnic Integration Project. However, in order for this grant support to become sustainable in the future, amendments were made to the Law on Primary Education and the Law on Secondary Education whereby the Ministry of Education and Science can continue to award these grants to the schools.   

Read the interview with Nazihtere Sulejmani, president of the Commission for Interethnic Integration in Education (CIIE) at the Ministry of Education and Science and find out more about the systemic changes made to include the interethnic integration in education, as well as the impact of the grants on the overall educational process.


Nazihtere Sulejmani, president of the Commission for Interethnic Integration in Education (CIIE) at the Ministry of Education and Science

Can you tell us which systemic changes have been made to include the interethnic integration in education?

Interethnic integration in education is a process that has been going on for a long time and will continue in the future in order to achieve the main goal, which is interethnic cohesion in education.

Although there have always been individual examples of good practice for interethnic integration in schools, they have not been sufficiently promoted and have not been sustainable and they have been insufficient to ensure the benefits of interethnic integration. By including provisions in the Law on Primary Education and the Law on Secondary Education on the possibility to implement activities for interethnic integration, the schools were provided with opportunities to organise such activities and to receive financial support for them from the Ministry of Education and Science.

In addition to the law amendments, the activities for interethnic integration have also become an integral part of the School Performance Quality Indicators that are monitored by the State Education Inspectorate. Interethnic integration has become an integral part of the Annual Programmes for operation of the schools. Elements of interethnic integration were also included in the training modules for the school director exam.

In 2020, the adopted competences and standards for teachers and professional associates in primary and secondary schools were amended and supplemented with competences for interethnic integration and democratic participation. This allowed the school staff from the positions ranging from trainee to advisor to be able to build competences through professional development and to have their achieved competences valued throughout the career development. 

Can you tell us more details about the path/process to systemic inclusion of grants?

The USAID Interethnic Integration in Education Project, which was implemented in the period 2012-2017, and then the USAID Youth Ethnic Integration Project were the roadmap for development of the process of interethnic integration in education. Good practices of the Project, which motivated the schools to implement activities that contribute to the development and promotion of multiculturalism, interethnic integration and tolerance by awarding grants, encouraged the then Working Group for Interethnic Integration to propose to the Ministry of Education and Science to find a way to support the schools in the implementation of such activities.

Being aware that each project has a beginning and an end, we focused on thinking about how to find a solution that will ensure the sustainability of the lessons learned from good practices.

The Working Group for Interethnic Integration in Education was working on finding systemic solutions that will ensure the sustainability of the activities for interethnic integration in schools. All analyses led to the need to intervene in the laws which will allow the Ministry of Education and Science to be able to financially support the schools directly for the implementation of activities for interethnic integration, taking into account that the schools are under the jurisdiction of the municipalities / City of Skopje, and that with the decentralization process, the financing of the schools is realized through block / earmarked grants by the municipalities.

In July 2016, the amendments to the Law on Primary Education and the Law on Secondary Education were adopted which allow the schools to be able to implement activities for interethnic integration and to be financially supported by the Ministry of Education and Science after announcing a Public Call for awarding funds to the schools that will implement activities that contribute to the development and promotion of multiculturalism, interethnic integration and tolerance in accordance with the criteria of the public call.

In the new Law on Primary Education that entered into force in August 2019, the process of multi-ethnic integration in education was further strengthened with the stipulation in the law called area – Promotion of multiculturalism / interculturalism and interethnic integration that envisages the establishment of the School Integration Team, its composition and role, and the provision of funds to support the schools for implementation of activities for interethnic integration, as well as the time of announcement of the Public Call by the Ministry.   

Undoubtedly, the driver of this whole process in this period was the Commission for strengthening the capacities for promotion of interethnic integration in education, established by a Decision of the Minister of Education and Science dated February 2020, which previously operated as a Working Group, and which is composed of representatives from the Ministry of Education and Science, the Bureau for Development of Education, the Centre for Vocational Education and Training, the State Education Inspectorate, the State Examination Centre, the Directorate for Development and Promotion of Education in the Languages ​​of the Communities, the Ministry of Political Systems and Inter-Community Relations (formerly the Secretariat for Implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement) and ZELS. The purpose of this Commission is to monitor the implementation of the strategy for integrated education, to propose activities in the field of integrated education and their monitoring.  

I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to the MCEC team from the USAID Interethnic Integration Projects, as well as to the representatives of the OSCE Mission to Skopje who have been our greatest support over the years in our efforts to ensure interethnic integration in education.

What is the purpose of awarding this financial support (grants)? Why is this support awarded?

The purpose of awarding financial support to schools known as “grants” is to promote the process of interethnic integration in education. In order to be able to advance this process, it was undoubtedly necessary to motivate the schools to implement activities for interethnic integration, and as a solution for support we envisaged the “grants”, i.e. the financial support to the schools in the amount of up to MKD 30,000 which the Ministry of Education and Science awards to the schools following a Public Call which is announced in October every year starting from 2016.

What types of activities are implemented in the schools with these grants? What results have been achieved with the grants? Please share with us some successful examples.

This year, for the fifth time, the Ministry of Education and Science announced a Public Call for awarding funds (grants) to public primary and secondary schools for implementation of joint student activities for the purpose of promoting good practices for activities that foster harmonious relations based on respecting differences, while building a multi-ethnic and multicultural society that provides for building modern, successful and effective educational institutions that will promote multi-ethnic and multicultural values, individualized approach to students, positive emotional climate and constructive multidirectional communication in a pleasant and encouraging school environment.

These activities can be implemented independently in a school where the teaching process is carried out in several languages of instruction or in partnership with another school by including a balanced number of students with different languages of instruction.

This year, funds were provided for support of 95 schools, which include 70 primary and 25 secondary schools for implementation of activities that contribute to the development and promotion of multiculturalism, interethnic integration and tolerance.

Until now, the Ministry of Education and Science has awarded 328 grants, which include 249 grants for primary schools and 79 grants for secondary schools.

Schools apply with different types of joint activities, depending on the creativity and innovation of teachers and students, such as joint gatherings, joint theatre performances, landscaping the school yard, sports competitions, making newspapers, organizing various bazaars, environmental actions, conducting various researches by always observing the criteria for balanced number of students, gender, ethnic composition.  

Every year the number of students involved increases and as a result over 15,000 students, over 1,200 teachers and over 600 parents were part of the activities that were financially supported by the MoES. 

The most important thing about the implementation of such activities is the number of new acquaintances, friendships, the established communication between the students with different languages of instruction. The stereotypes and prejudices of a large number of students have been eliminated.

Can you share with us what’s new with regards to these grants this year given the newly occurred situation?

The new situation with the emergence of the pandemic imposed the need to introduce new rules and methods in the implementation of joint activities, and thus schools which have failed to implement the planned activities were instructed to re-adapt them into joint activities that will be held online.

In the Public Call that we announced this year, we pointed out that schools can apply for joint activities that they can implement through interaction and remotely, i.e. online or with physical presence if the epidemiological situation allows it, taking into account that these activities can be implemented by October 2021.

Regarding the funds that the schools receive, the Public Call states that they can also be used to procure ICT equipment because we expect that most of the schools will be interested in implementing joint activities remotely, which is different from previous years when these funds could be used for working materials, props, transportation of students for implementation of the activities etc., because the activities were implemented with physical presence.

Schools are also offered examples of joint activities that can be carried out remotely.

We encourage the schools to come up with good, interesting and creative activities with which they will apply to the Public Call.