An inclusive school culture does not only address different religious or ethnic student groups. Personalities are different and bullying can be a problem at all schools. That was the reason the Xhemail Mustafa Kosovo academy team decided to work on an inclusive school culture.
“We decided to limit the project to four main concepts: conflict, communication, responsibility and equality”, said teacher Trendelina Berisha who participated at the academy together with the school headmaster and a parent representative.
After having conducted a base survey among the students, they selected a group of 23 students to carry out the project.
“The selection criteria was very important. We wanted students with different religions, ethnicities and nationalities. Also, we wanted a mix of energetic and more introvert students. With the energetic, we sought to channel this energy in a positive direction, with the introvert the aim was to encourage participation”, said Berisha.
Roni seems to be one of the more extroverted members of the group.
“I joined the group late and did not know what it was all about. But I wanted to be in a group and became quite loud and active in the project”, he told us. “We had debates about conflict, communication, responsibility and equality. Once the teacher asked us to draw a flower. I drew on a small scrap of paper she gave me and didn’t notice that others had bigger pieces of paper before we looked at each other’s drawings”.
“First I thought that the reason was that we didn’t have enough paper, but then the teacher asked whether we thought it fair that some had got bigger papers than others. That is not fair, so I told her she had put fire to the hay, she was creating conflict”, said Roni and continued:
“When we discussed conflicts, we realized that conflicts are natural, they are everywhere. A video showed how to stop it. I was amazed that some people think that conflicts can only be resolved with guns and violence”.
The members of the group made presentations for their fellow students and came to be looked upon as experts on conflict resolution.
“I was a bit sceptic to begin with, but we succeeded in discussing and resolving some conflicts. We have learned a lot and now other students ask us to support them in solving conflicts. Each conflict has a resolution but you have to search for it”, Sara, another member of the project group, told us.
The highlight of the project came when the group wrote and performed a play about inclusion. The play focused on a kid in a wheel chair. Students argued about whether they should help him or not until they finally agreed to write to the municipality to ask for better wheel chair accessibility. The message is clear: Although they are young they can make a change.
“I think the project shows that children can do so much. They only need our support. Through their activities, they have raised awareness not only at the school but also among parents and in the neighborhood. During the play I saw tears in the eyes of the spectators, it really touched emotions. They put the finger where it hurts and they had made it all themselves. Children use simple words but they are very clear”, said Arbnora Gojani Mazreku, the parent member of the project group.
The school director Shpresa Shala is also happy about the project outcome:
“Almost all the 1200 students at the school has been involved at some point and teachers succeeded in incorporating activities in their subjects like civic education, literature and art. We believe that it will be sustainable and continue to have an impact at our school”.