Global Education Actors in Serbia – Interview with BalkanIDEA Novi Sad
This week, we had a conversation with Aleksa Savić, a youth worker and one of the key people at BalkanIDEA who’s for years been engaging to bring Global Education to fruition through various activities. BalkanIDEA, as a youth organisation, has since its founding in 2000 been actively involved in capacity building and active youth participation. In case you haven’t already, you can read our previous interview as well with the National Youth Council of Serbia.
1. Hi Aleksa, thank you for agreeing to answer some of our questions. Could you talk a bit about your role at BalkanIDEA and the relationship your organisation has towards Global Education?
Hi! I’ve been volunteering at BalkanIDEA since 2012 (I was 18 back then), and since 2015 I’ve been more actively participating in the management of the organisation. More concretely, I come up with ideas for youth work and for people who work with young people (youth workers, teachers and others), I fill out application forms and my personal favorite – I work with young people through youth work and non-formal educational activities (more commonly known as workshops, trainings, volunteer programs but also individual counselling and support).
Two years ago, we decided to make Global Education one of the two main “pillars” of our organisation! Several members have participated in training courses for Global Education multipliers, after which we introduced Global Education to the rest of the organisation, to young people from Novi Sad and to the pupils from the primary school “23. oktobar” from Sremski Karlovci, through a long-term youth work program, several workshops and street campaigns.
Personally, I’m happy because Greta Thunberg’s movement has made visible the need for our children and young people to look after our future, and I’m proud on a group of young people from Novi Sad who started a local “Fridays for Future” protest – several among them were young people with whom I had the honour of working as a youth worker.
2. As a youth organisation which engages in youth work and non-formal education in Novi Sad, and which cooperates with similar organisations, how aware are civil society organisations about the concept of Global Education, and how aware are young people? What could we do to improve upon it?
Organisations a little, young people less so, institutions not at all.
I understand colleagues who, because of the unfavourable work conditions in which civil society in Serbia has operated for years, do not have the luxury of developing a comprehensive approach to work. It’s ok that organisations are working to alleviate specific needs of the community, and that they’re contributing to the sustainability of the whole community with the support, and through cooperation with others.
I would rather appeal to the young people – I think that we’re also responsible for what happens in the community where we live, and in the world as well. I’m saddened when I see young people who don’t understand the purpose of participating in decision making processes (meaning political processes, too!) or don’t react at a sexist remark by a faculty professor, a joke about Roma people, littering the street with burek wrapping, discriminatory practices of the firm “LC Waikiki” or care-free purchasing of avocados and Nutella. These are all situations in which silence means approval. What we as youth workers and teachers can do, is we can encourage young people to think about the bigger picture and the causes of events around us and its consequences – to understand that they do have a place in everything that’s going on, that their thoughts and reactions are important.
3. Previously here at Fun Park, we’ve pointed out certain similarities between youth work principles and Global Education principles. How do you see their relation, and should we work on recognizing the work of organisations such as yours as being already harmonized with Global Education?
I like that Global Education encourages intergenerational dialogue even more, and the similarity with youth work that I would like to point out is the encouragement for the individual to initiate change – first and foremost, within their lives, then motivating two or three people in their surroundings, potentially spreading the “contagion” of Global Citizenship to a lot more people! But hey, if you can’t imagine yourself at a stump, holding a speech in front big crowds, don’t worry – small changes to your lifestyle (responsible use of drinking water, informing about the origin of products you’re buying or avoiding the use of unnecessary packaging) can contribute to a global change!
For now, I’m satisfied that I’m being contacted by partner organisations and schools to help them understand Global Education and to create and lead Global Education programmes. I believe that by doing this, change will come from the „bottom up“, that is, that values for which we’re advocating will become rooted enough in youth and educational work that future curriculums will simply contain Global Education principles, because the experts who’ll be participating in their creation will understand and “live” them.
4. Fun Park is the result of a search for new ways of bringing important topics closer to young people in an entertaining fashion. BINS had a similar idea, I think, when you organised “Edugaming for Diversity”, during which you were building the capacities of youth workers to employ board games in their work. How do you see such educational tools and methods, do you think they fulfil their roles?
Oof! When I try to participate in the development of new educational methods and use them in youth work, I feel like I’m back in my studies, doing experimental exercises! It’s a bit of a paradox that we youth workers, as we grow older and gain experience, become more adept at developing new methods while at the same time, we’re becoming increasingly detached from the generations that are the most actively following and developing new trends in social activism, fun and social life.
That’s why it’s important that we develop new methods together with young people. For example, with educational board games, we can reach some who are “bored” by usual workshops. On the other hand, fans of board games are used to playing for fun or for a logic challenge, so it is therefore particularly hard for designers to balance the educational and the entertainment character of the game.
All in all, I would encourage all colleagues who hunger for innovation to find their inspiration through long-term work with young people – that way, we see a bigger picture of the lives of the youth we work with, which makes it easier to then develop methods which will adequately match their needs.
5. Through projects such as “Talk to the book”, you’ve organised workshops in high schools – how open are schools generally for collaboration? I ask that because Global Education aims to change the formal educational system as well, which would mean schools would become more open for collaborating with civil society organisations. In what ways can CSOs contribute to the implementation of GE in the formal educational system?
We’ve done workshops on empathy and acceptance of differences in the primary school “Branko Radičević” and in the high school “Svetozar Marković”. Teachers in whose rooms we held these activities were more than supportive. Unfortunately, my experience has taught me that doing these activities in schools doesn’t imply the sensibility of the entire school, but of a few employees who understand that non-formal education complements school curriculum and that it enables pupils who don’t have straight As to stand out as well.
In addition to the schools I’ve mentioned, I will single out an enthusiastic team of educators of the primary school “Kosta Trifković” (who consulted with us when we were introducing living library methods in schools), primary school „23. oktobar“ (Global Education pioneers within the Erasmus+ programme) and certain employees in the medical high school “7. April” who allowed their pupils to participate in a Living library.
I think it would be great if the civil sector and formal educational institutions were more motivated to conduct the curriculum together – to engage non-formal educational experts in carrying out school lessons. This would allow young people to learn about participating in activities, and would mean that the curriculum was conceived to make young people understand in what ways their new knowledge, skills and values would reflect not just on their intellect or a future career, but also other aspects of life, the people around them and on the planet as a whole.
6. The Ministry of Youth and Sports, in cooperation with the Center for Youth Work, is currently in the process of building a national network of Global Education actors in Serbia. In what ways would it be useful for you to join this initiative?
I believe networking will contribute to faster improvement for those who are working with young people, I hope that the idea of collaboration between formal educational institutions and civil society organisations to implement curriculum activities will get additional support from the ministries, and I’m looking forward to hear people speak about the brave “Friday for Future” high school protesters as events that preceded the formation of the network in Serbia! Young people skipped their classes and dealt with this topic while the state didn’t recognize their needs. I don’t want to encourage young people to skip classes but rather to encourage the competent authorities to listen to our needs.
7. As with every year, all state and non-state actors within the Global Education Network will mark the Global Education Week during the third week of November, from the 16th until the 22nd. Various activities will be organized, including collective activities for the whole Network, which is this year’s innovation, all in order to popularize the Global Education concept. Do you perhaps already have plans how BalkanIDEA could participate?
We will happily announce our activities as part of an international project “The Other Perspective”, through which we’ll aim to empower organisations from Africa and Europe to apply alternative methods of non-formal education for the benefit of sustainable communities, advocating for human rights, and the rights of the LGBTQ population especially.
We’re also currently supporting the primary school “23. oktobar” through the implementation of an international project of Global Education called “Awareness is Power”, which is being carried out within the framework of the Erasmus+ programme, so we are hopeful that our collaboration will serve as an inspiration for new symbioses of schools and youth organisations.
The Fun Park app was designed in accordance to Global Education principles. Find out more about Global Education: