On the 25th of November 2016 one hundred students coming from six high schools of Rome, Florence and Arezzo, gathered at the IIS Leonardo Da Vinci school in Rome to actively participate in the Youth Forum.
Being the Forum led and organised by young people everyone was very excited. All the schools’ groups met several times before the event in order to get to know more about the issue of refugees and make up their own understanding about what is the real situation and what the can feasibly do about it. On the day, every group had two proposals to share.
Each group reacted to this challenge differently, some students were very engaged in promoting social solidarity in some ways, others believed that they couldn’t make a difference about the situation, some following mass media information were of the opinion that refugees are a threat to society. But still, despite all the external challenges of that day due to public servants and transportation strikes, students and teachers woke up very early and made long journeys to be all together on the 25th of November. Oxfam Italy’s staff included.
The Forum started at 10,00 in the morning and finished at 16,30. After a short introduction where the hosting school and Oxfam welcomed the participants and set the ground for discussion, students broke the ice and with the support of their teachers moved to discuss about their contexts and proposals in mixed groups widening their understanding and developing new ideas about the role they can play in society to support people forced to flee.
The organising team of IIS Leonardo Da Vinci prepared every single detail in order to support fellow students and create a safe environment to work, discuss, reflect and act. The key of the organisation has been the badge: the team prepared badges for all participants and on them they put randomly coloured bubbles. This helped when they moved to work in mixed group, because the team called the colours and for each colour they allocated a room where to work.
Even lunch has been organised: a week before the Forum the communication team of the hub school sent a welcoming email to all participants with a link to a google module to investigate about how many people wanted to order a sandwich at the schools’ bar, and even if there were vegetarians or people with allergies.
After lunch, students really realised it was a European project: on Skype video conference Italian students met British students participating to the Forum in London on the same day.
Yes, they were not alone, not only from their city, not only from their country, but participating representing their school in Europe.
Afterwards, each school group gathered together to share the new outcomes and ideas from the mixed groups session. It followed a powerful brainstorming on how to adjust and present in plenary their action proposals.
The great success was that almost every group used a different approach to present: some already prepared very emotional videos about wars and human rights or the great profit of multinationals selling weapons, others simulated situations in class where often some people are emarginated, one group sang a song, two groups simulated the monthly students’ school assembly as an opportunity to raise awareness to fellow students.
Creativity was on the stage. Students took the leadership.
According to their feedbacks, it was the first time they were the protagonists and not the audiences of a meeting. Which created a sense of ownership, responsibility and engagement towards their own learning process.
Teachers were amazed. They were so proud of their students because, despite the challenges to organise the preparatory meetings, they could see how students were empowered in that situation… making their voice heard in a proactive way, solving challenges, working together, looking for possible common strategies to move on and ACT. They also realised that the Youth Forum model can be reproduced to tackle contemporary issues in schools during students’ assemblies.
Now that schools have defined their actions, it’s just about putting them into practice being aware that head masters, teachers and Oxfam staff are there to support their best creative ideas!