me, myself & andrei

14 Apr 2006
Global Education Week - Sum up

Sum up - Personal view

First of all I’d like to thank everyone for his/her input to this seminar. I’ve heard a lot of personal perspectives on Global Education, and on what North & South means.

Starting with Franz and Milan which had more of an international view, focusing on relations with Africa, and Alicia with a drop of Latin-American mentality and soul, and ending with the Romanian view that saw things like students exchanging information with local companies/groups, and also with the French view, concerning the interaction between the natives and the immigrants.

Yet there’s one more view, a personal view, a youth view. North being you, teachers, educators, trainers. And me and Magdalena and maybe also Cecilia, being the South, the youth, the students, and with a personal touch - still the children.

I have to say that I’ve been prepared to hear big words around here. Big words, not strong words. Why? Because adults in general are often loosing focus of the simple things, which more often are the important things.

What I have not been prepared for was to be lost in these big words.

This is also the reason, why I’m doing this in written, and I have not been able to stand up and speak. Because during the meetings it was hard to keep focused. I often felt as if I was with a bunch of students at a very theoretical course, where you have the “educator” asking a question, yet the “students” having a very fuzzy idea on what they should answer with. That’s why the workshops often started with clearing out the topic, and then trying to reach the topic. Therefore, I feel I’m right when I say that there were big words, big concepts flying by.

I started to say that my view is more like youth versus adults, students versus teachers/educators. To be more honest, it is more vice-versa. Adults versus youth, educators versus students.

Simply because there was little interest to hear the voice of the youth during this seminar. People tended to take the network out of context. There was a lot of talk about “THE network”, as an isolated group, a group that acts upon another one - how to attract new organizations, how to improve contacts. At a much dimmed level, this creates nevertheless a hierarchy - already talked about it during one of the workshops, by mentioning some problems with ownership and all that follows from that.

Without realizing it, there has been a Northern group (adults) created right here, in a group that deals with North-South relations (focuses on together). Quite a paradox.

I don’t know if I’m speaking righteous in the name of the youth, yet the EXCHANGE is the central word!

What we are doing here is an exchange. We are the main ones that win something real, almost touchable, that we can feel in our own hands.

The exchange is taking a lot of forms. The form with the most important impact is still the international exchange, concerned about the social level. It is this type of exchange, where you, from Argentina, go to France and learn about the people and culture, that helps breaking stereotypes and barriers of any types - cultural, economical, religion-based, etc.
Without any doubt, other types of exchanges are the least to say useful.
I’m proud to say that the Romanian example is a very good one - putting together students, future employees, with their future employers, local companies. Without a doubt, when you give a chance to see youth at work, you definitely reach the idea that you have a LOT to learn from the new generations!

I think that without knowing, you already acknowledge this when you don’t know how to work with your computer, yet when you ask for help from a 10 year old, before you know it, he has solved the issue, and you can move on with your work.

I don’t want you to believe that I’m lobbying for Life-Link, or anything. I’m lobbying for myself, for my own generation. It is a “coincidence”, if you will, that Life-Link has this vision focused on the youth, and its branches - teachers, parents, community. I was talking to Kevin yesterday, and I was telling him that when you involve youth into different projects - they manage to involve the ones near them as well. For example when a project needs money or time, because of the parents’ need to control, they want to inform themselves, and they start to ask questions. “Why do you need 5 euros? Why are you spending so much time at school, after the regular courses? Why do you believe in this « silly project»?” Youth, without any doubt can be the best advocacy activists, the best lawyers… with a condition: they need the chance to be heard.

More or less this is what happens at Alicia’s place, where they have the students gathering up and “fighting” for what they believe, while the educators are putting their ears into value.
More or less what happens in Lithuania, if I remember correctly, where there’s also a national student committee that delivers the students’ issues to the Ministry of Education. I hope I’m not mistaken when I say that in Romania this doesn’t happen. There are only student councils at schools, … maybe! Even when they do exist, they are superficial. Why? Because they lack the self-esteem, the citizenship, the feeling that they have power, and that they are part of their community, and also that they can change something.

I also want to remind you that it is easier to start from scratch (with the youth), then to change (the nowadays adults).

I’m not saying that working with adults is a wrong thing. Not at all!
Yet, in this network the teachers take the lead, while students/youth are the target. In democracy you usually ask the target as well. Alicia pointed out very well today that in the perspective of having the North as the developed countries of the Northern hemisphere, and South as Africa & South-America… we seem not to ask the Southern partners how they see their relation with the North and what they think we can do together.

Through the years, when people wanted to help or to change something, they often started from the perspective of what they can do for others, and not how they can join forces.
The process of give and take was taken down to we give, we take, and the idea that is often heard in peace seminars of having win-win situations was lost. Win-win is when you give and somebody else gives something in return!

Madeleine said something in the very beginning of our meetings. “I like practice and not so much the theory”. I immediately felt that I relate to that.

I sincerely don’t want to look on the dark side of this. It’s like Kevin said taking upon Madeleine’s creative story: every bit of water is our small step, our small contribution. Yet, I feel that many meetings end up with the “Youth is the hope…The next generation”.

Firstly, if you think that youth is so important, where’s the youth within the decision process?
Secondly, by going on with the theme of “next generation” I don’t see such a bright future soon. There’s a joke in Romanian coming from a saying that goes like “Don’t leave your today’s duties for tomorrow”, and the joke, often spread around the students is “Don’t leave your today’s duties for tomorrow, leave them for the day after tomorrow, and maybe they will be done by themselves”.

A very great step towards bringing communities together is the IT without any doubt. Now you talk to someone 2 meters away from you, tomorrow you still speak to that someone, yet that someone is on another continent.
Yes you can even meet your wife, or your husband through the Internet, yet what Vic forgot to say is that almost 75% of those marriages end up within the next 6 months, and the others end up on the way.

During these days I felt like watching a movie called “The girl in the café”, a story based on a civil servant that take this girl to the G8 summit, and this girl is the only one that is facing the reality as everybody should. She’s the only one that treats the issue of 3rd world’s poverty with courage, while the G8 groups focus on how not to take away much money from their countries, in order not to make their citizens angry. At the heart of this movie are the nameless, faceless millions who suffer daily and the ease with which this fact is taken as statistic. Africa has never before been on the forefront of social issues as it is today and to anyone who might be under the impression that poverty is an issue for politicians to sort out around the conference table, ‘The Girl in the Cafe’ is a potent reminder that the power to affect change is more immediate than we might think.

But for this there is a need for bold steps. I’m waiting for the youth to make these bold steps. Why? Because the adults of today, although they have nothing to lose, other than the better future of their sons and daughters, they are afraid to act with courage.

That’s my constructive criticism. Hopefully it’s not just criticism.