Skopje Sports For Peace
Partners: Panajot Ginovski Primary School
GFP vehicle: Sports For Peace
Years: 2014 – 2015
The 2001 war in Macedonia caused increased separation between its different ethnic groups, especially in its schools. The population is comprised of Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, and Bosnians, but due to cultural differences and the divide between ethnicities in schools, many of the country’s youth speak different languages and do not interact with each other. This has resulted in a widening gap between youth in Macedonia, 25% of which are Albanian.
In 2014, Generations For Peace launched the Skopje Sport For Peace Programme to help establish common ground, familiarity, trust, and cohesion between these disconnected youth groups in the Panajot Ginovski School, a multi-ethnic primary school in Skopje. Launched to provide opportunities for lasting interaction between Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, and Bosnian children, the Programme helped foster understanding and acceptance between them.
46% of TG members reported feeling more comfortable sharing a desk with someone from a different ethnicity.
This was measured based on TG members expressing their willingness to share a desk with someone from a different ethnicity.
61% increase in the number of TG members who report feeling comfortable interacting with someone from a different ethnicity.
This was measured based on TG members expressing their willingness to play and interact with someone from a different ethnicity.
54% increase in the number of BC members who report communicating with someone from a different ethnicity.
This was measured based on BC members expressing higher frequency of non-professionally based communication with people from a different ethnicity.
The Programme was a success in more ways than one and its positive impact is evident in the children. Before this experience, these children would not even say hello to each other, and they refused to speak a language different to their own. We were surprised to see how long the sessions lasted, and how excited the children were to share their stories and connect with one another. They motivated each other and helped translate for their peers, even though they found it difficult.
Macedonian and Albanian children spent time with each other, became comfortable together, and developed lasting friendships that would have never existed before. Their trust in us, the volunteers, grew more and more over time, and they showed a growing willingness to learn and attend more sessions.
The games and lessons helped me learn new things and make new friends, and this has changed me. Even though the Programme has ended, I still say hello and spend time with the friends I made. I might forget some definitions of words or some of the terms I learnt, but the friendships will always remain.
I have been engaged in a few similar projects with other organisations that also work in schools in Macedonia, but this Programme is different. At the beginning, we were sceptical because the team is so young, but they have proven the contrary. They have made a difference that is very easy to notice in the youth that participated in the Programme. They are different now. They are setting an example not just for other students, but for us, the teachers, and I will continue to learn from them.
A story of change
The atmosphere at our school is much different now than it was on day one. Though at first we thought it was an unrealistic goal, now the schoolteachers can see coexistence between Macedonian and Albanian students here at Panajot Ginovski, thanks to the Skopje Sport For Peace Programme.
Just like many other schools in Skopje, Macedonian and Albanian students at our school did not interact with each other. Before the Programme they were timid and shy, they kept a distance from each other and hid their hands behind their backs. They did not communicate or play together at all. This made us aware of the challenge ahead of us.
Though it is uncommon, some children’s families did support coexistence, and those students became leaders in the Programme. They saw the benefits of speaking the language of the others and helped encourage other students to see the good in it too.
We encouraged the momentum they created. The other children watched as others explored different languages, and they noticed how empowering and useful it can be. As time went on, we no longer needed to step in to help with translating, because they started communicating with each other so well on their own.
At one of the workshops, we gathered the community to share the Programme’s most significant impacts. We assigned students to translate from Macedonian to Albanian and English, and they participated enthusiastically without the need for translators. Now, all the students at our school understand each other perfectly, and that brings a smile to our faces.
The greatest feedback for the work we have done is the trust and enthusiasm we now see in our students. Parents, teachers, and children spend time together regardless of their ethnicity or religion. At the end of it all, they say it is thanks to the Skopje Sport For Peace Programme, and to us.