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YavasGamats Summer Schools
Armenia, Turkey | Citizens’ Assembly
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, “YavaşGamats Summer Schools”: hCa will organise two successive one-week YavasGamats workshops/seminars for teachers and students from Armenia and Turkey> The first round of hCa summer schools for the participation of youth from Turkey and Armenia was organized in 2005, in Antakya, Turkey, with the aim to contribute to confidence-building between the two societies. The success and outcomes of this program, supported by the Council of Europe, has resonated far and wide, lingering as a model for similar initiatives.

Education provides a versatile and fertile platform for the formation, expression and transformation of collective perceptions, mindsets, attitudes and behaviours regarding the conflict. While the content and methodology of the curriculum in Armenia and Turkey may not be much promising in transcending the obstacles to reconciliation at societal level and the mistrust between the societies of Armenia and Turkey, teachers do hold the potential means at their hands to work within the established system, without necessarily awaiting a total policy reform over the content. 

 

Teachers, the largest and immediate group of educators in the formal education system, are not only public servants but also potentially key actors in any societal transformation process.

 

They are indeed obliged to fulfill their tasks as drawn by the curriculum and associated administrative codes. Yet, in the light of new pedagogical perspectives, it looks that “how” they teach is as critical – and even more critical than - “what” they are supposed to teach.

 

“How” they interact with their pupils in the classroom, and with colleagues in the school environment, “how” they practically react/attend to and resolve conflicts actually shows what they “coach” their students for. Autocratic/authoritarian or democratic behavior? Versatility and resourcefulness for peace-building or for reinforcing conflicts? 

 

Enriching professional capacities to induce democratic citizenship skills and practices in the learning environment and across the daily interactions in the “micro-cosmos” of the classroom and to inspire peaceful resolution of controversies and conflicts will benefit the adoption of pluralistic democracy, rights/freedoms and peace in daily life experience as fundamental means to approach conflicts and issues and to develop a critical evaluation of matters in everyday life.

 

In case teachers act in the classroom as role models and multipliers of a language, mindset, attitudes and practices, and coach behaviours promoting peace, confidence and reconciliation, they can introduce a positive vision to children and youth.

 

This potential across the field of educators – currently in professional practice as teachers, or, as university students in education faculties – promises a fertile field to build and strengthen multiple bridges and mutual trust between the two countries at the level of civil society.

 

Upon the experience of other similar work pursued with teachers as the target group, hCa proposes to organizetwo successive one-week YavasGamats workshops/seminars with participation of up to 40 youth from each of Armenia and Turkey. The total number of participants to these two rounds of one-week programs will add up to a total of 80, out of which 50% will be young teachers (in practice up to 5 years) and university students, preferably enrolled in education faculties.  The methodology of the activity is structured around a) building a friendly, productive environment among participants; b) promoting active collaboration of composite groups; and c) improving professional and personal communication skills to nurture mutual understanding and confidence. This activity will complement a number of media-, art- and youth-related activities as all these activities basically share the same youth constituency.

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