In Georgia the School Council, consisting of teachers, students and parents, is formally every schools main decision-making body. However, lack of information about the rights and duties of council members often leads to passivity. As a consequence, the real power ends up in a few hands in the school administration.
“The aim of our Summer Academy project was to raise awareness among students, parents and teachers at our school about the rights and opportunities they have in democratic school governance”, says Maka Bibileishvili, Deputy School principal and civic education teacher of Tbilisi #42 Public School named After Academician Ilia Vekua.
The Summer Academy alumni decided not to limit the project to the existing members of the school council. Instead they opened the group for all interested students, parents and teachers as they were all potential future candidates for the council. In this way they secured that the project became sustainable.
Several workshops were organized. The workshops for the students were non-formal, with activities inspired by the Council of Europe manuals “Living in Democracy” and Compass. In the meetings with parents focus was on initiatives taken by students and the advantages of active participation for the personal development of their kids. The seminars for teachers included methods for cooperation with students, the school legislation system and values oriented education.
After the completion of this initial phase of the project, the students carried out research to identify the school’s main challenges.
“The main result of the project was that we identified real school problems – bullying and unsatisfying cooperation between students and teachers. Now we are learning how to deal with these problems together”, says Sulkhan Chargeishvili, Member of the Advisory Committee at Georgian School Student Unions’ Alliance.
“First of all, we presented the problem to the School Council which is eligible to decide on the priorities of school policy. In cooperation with the School Council we managed to create a two months informal training module for students, using arts against bullying. The course wasn’t mainly case study oriented; rather the students learned how they can work with bullies and victims”.
Together with the Ilia State University, a group of students have also prepared an action plan against bullying which will be implemented next academic year. The plan includes peer education and establishment of peer mediation service.
“As for the lack of cooperation, we decided to create a space for teachers and students where they could discuss common challenges. They were informal meetings – once per week, which turned out to be a nice way of promoting the dialogue approach. Students now have a chance to speak about their problems and to learn how to find solutions”, says Mariam Maisuradze, 9th grade student at Tbilisi #42 Public School named After Academician Ilia Vekua.
Lastly, Summer Academy alumni Maka Bibileishvili has been elected as a board member of the Georgian Civic Education Teachers Forum.
“This gives us the chance to share our experiences and knowledge from the Summer Academy with more than 600 civic education teachers from all over Georgia”, says Maka Bibileishvili.
The lessons learned at the Summer Academy might go national in Georgia.