107 participants at the Final Conference

On August 19th, we have reached the point of global overconsumption, which means that in only 8 months we have used up the resources that should have been enough for the whole year to sustain the planet in its present state. We simply use more resources and at a quicker pace than we should. This is just one of the global problems that we confront on a daily basis such. It is without doubt that the future generations will have a role in coming up with solutions to global problems such and as such school has an important role in thematizing these issues. Therefore our conference not only looked at global problems and their solutions, but it also showcased innovative school projects from Europe and Africa.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and initial plans, our Sierra Leonean colleagues could not have been present due to the ebola crisis. Therefore, we also wanted to raise awareness about the root causes of the ebola epidemic, listen to the message of teachers and students and show our solidarity.

In his keynote speech, Max Zimani (Zavod Voluntariat) stressed that 80% of the world’s population lives in the global South, therefore, one can only successfully combat global problems, if these countries are involved as equal partner in thinking out solutions instead of thinking of them as “underdeveloped” regions. Max presented both the historical and current processes that led the disappearance of the advanced civilizations of the continent. For instance, 14-century Timbuktu (in Mali) was 5-times bigger as London at that time and hosted around 25.000 university students. Have we ever considered that II. Edward, King on England could have attended university in Africa? Where did all this knowledge and wealth disappear? Colonization, slave trade and the ongoing economic exploitation (such as illicit capital outflows), all have led to fall of these civilizations. To achieve a balanced representation, Max suggested that first we should look historical events critically. Second, moving from a problem-oriented focus, we should also give space to represent the thriving initiatives and innovations of local African communities both in the media and in school textbook, added Max.

The presentation of Diana Szántó (Artemisszió Foundation) was closely connected to Max Zimani’s message. The current health crisis in Sierra Leone is very much due to the fact that international organizations have always motivated developing countries to cut back on their public expenditure, especially on social services. After the end of the 10-year civil war in 2002, the public institutions of the country were in ruins. The rebuilding process was mainly led by the UN, but they emphasized the strengthening of the democratic institutions instead of rebuilding welfare services. The ebola epidemic questioned this path. She warned off the interpretations that attribute the epidemic to the ignorance of the local population, superstitions and backward cultural practices. In her opinion, these divert our attention from the real question, namely, what role the international development plays in the underfinancing of health care institutions. She concluded her presentation with the ebola campaign song of One Family People, which attests to the creativity of local communities.

One Family People uses art mainly to advocate for the rights of people with disability in Sierra Leone. Disabled people make up 15-20% of the Sierra Leonean population, which is 3-4 times bigger than the ratio (5%) in Hungary. This is the reason that St. Stephens School from Makó (Hungary) and Kelly’s Vocational School from Hastings (Sierra Leone) chose disability as the main topic of their school project. Mónika Mátó (English teacher) stressed that the project helped open up the school. The visit to the school of physically disabled students enabled students to have a personal experience of the difficulties. The sports-day organized with the involvement of disabled athletes was an opportunity of mutual learning. Through the program, students became much more conscious, for instance, they look critically at public institutions to see if they are accessible for all regardless of ability.

The presentation of Dr. Gergely Tapolczai, MP looked at the same issue from the perspective of those affected. It was the most inspiring talk of the conference. Mr. Tapolczai guided us through the difficulties he faced growing up. He also talked about the advances that the National Disability Program and the sign-language law brought to the deaf community. As a deaf student in the school of hearers, he could only take strength from his inner motivation. HIs love for reading helped him through the difficulties. He graduated from Law University, and through his advocacy work at SINOSZ (the umbrella organization for deaf people) he made great advances for the acceptance of the sign language law in 2009. This ensured the setting up of a sign language interpretation service, which is a great help in everyday communication between deaf and non-deaf.

The Waste-land section was opened by Dániel Varjú, student at Apáczai High School. He talked about the results of the joint work, and stressed that in one year the attitude towards sustainability and environmental issues changed in the school. For instance, they initiated the selective collection of rubbish which is maintained by a volunteer group of students. Dimitar Lazarov (CIE) talked about the issue of food waste which was a popular topic through the collaboration between Ghana and Bulgaria. Food is certainly an issue that everyone can relate to. The facts are striking. In the past 30 years, food production has increased 2-4 times, but even today every 7th person goes to bed hungry. At the same time, 1/3 of all food produced ends up in waste. This has various reasons: it is not even harvested, food ends up in trash during transport or packaging, we do not buy it at the supermarket, as it is “ugly”, or we throw the leftovers away. We can fight this trend with small actions: being more aware of how much we need, how much we buy, “recycling” leftovers. Renáta Pakot, the representative of Terracycle believes in radical solutions as well. Their slogan is: Let’s eliminate the idea of waste! Waste has 3 important properties: composition, features and intention. Based on this, they recommend three approaches: reuse (renovating electronic devices), upcycle by giving it a new function (creating pens from used toothbrushes), and recycle (making hangers from chips bags).

The participants of the roundtable, Our world in the classroom looked at global education from multiple perspectives representing their various fields: dr. Erika Fodor (Ministry of Trade and Foreign Affairs), Attila Varga (Hungarian Institute for Educational Research and Development), Dimitar Lazarov (Center for Inclusive Education), Eben Parditey EHT-Ghana, Szilvia Csanády (Arany János Primary and Secondary School), Bence Csontos (National Youth Council of Hungary) offered their insights.

The conference was closed by three interactive and hands-on workshops:

Recyclart by Cellux Art Group

The school partnership method by Kristine F. Tolborg (founder of Global School Partnerships Denmark)

Global dimension in everyday school life by Dávid Bán and Balázs Nagy (Anthropolis)

The exhibition, Faraway classmate showcasing the work of Hungarian and Sierra Leonean schools can be visited until the 5th of December at the conference venue, Eötvös 10 Community Center.


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