"Learning to Change our World Together" with UNESCO Associated Schools

Vincent Massey Collegiate, Winnipeg, Manitoba

From December 10 to 12, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, in collaboration with the UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) in Canada, welcomed more than 300 students, teachers and other guests to a student conference entitled “Learning to Change our World Together”.

This conference, held at the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba, was part of the tri‐national UNESCO schools project between Israel, Germany, and Canada.

The overarching objective of the student conference was to promote Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education. The conference successfully engaged students and teachers from Canada, Germany and the United States, in transformative intercultural dialogue that lead to individual and collective action to contribute to a global culture of peace and human rights.

The opening ceremony honored Malala Yousafazi, a young Pakistani girl and powerful advocate for girl’s education under the Taliban. Together, students, teachers and invited guests addressed the following sub-themes:  Identity, Diversity and Worldview; Liberty and Equality; Freedom of Expression and Opinion.

Each of the sub-themes was addressed by a number of dynamic panelists. Specific related topics included Indigenous Rights, Refugees and Immigrants, Human Trafficking, Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Education for All, Media and Freedom of Expression, and many others. With the guidance of a facilitator (some of which were members of the Commission’s Youth Advisory Group), students then had the opportunity to join smaller groups and address the topics through case studies and discussions.

Participating teachers were also offered separate teacher training workshops on education for human rights. Students had the opportunity to participate in various exciting activities including an interactive play led by the Manitoba School Improvement Programme, a special exhibition of editorial cartoons entitled Freedom of Expression in Broad Strokes and a human rights-themed movie night at the Winnipeg Arts Gallery. Participants were also invited to a special night of music and artistic expression with musical group “Tribe of One”. Tribe of One are world-class performers who fuse the rich heritage of indigenous cultures with modern forms of artistic expression.

On the last day of the Conference, students and teachers gathered into their respective school groups to develop action plans with specific recommendations on how to address human rights-related challenges in their schools and their communities.

The Canadian Commission for UNESCO and the UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) in Canada is proud to have been able to provide this enriching opportunity to UNESCO schools participants. We believe that it was be a unique occasion for students and teachers to learn together, share new and meaningful experiences, and make lasting friendships and connections.

The UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network in Canada is comprised of 63 schools in seven provinces. Canadian schools that join the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network make a commitment to support the ideals of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization) in order to contribute to a local, national and global culture of peace.

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