The initial project idea consisted of series of workshops for younger teenagers (age 14-15) in cooperation with schools and youth centres, rounding it the whole experience up with a training manual for teachers and youth workers. By addressing dating violence, we would be able to give pupils tools for reflecting and taking actions in different situations they would find themselves in when going to secondary school. Methods of theatre pedagogy and dramatherapy would be used. By enhancing creativity in youth, they would become active participants, not passive receivers during workshops.
The Covid-19 situation forced us to think creatively how to implement the original project idea in accordance to restrictions due to the pandemic. We decided to “translate” all the activities to online meetings and workshops. Besides, we established virtual classroom with written tasks. However, asking youngsters to sit in front of computers another three hours besides their regular school work, was something we believed was not friendly to them. Namely they were already starting to feel overloaded due to schoolwork they needed to do at home. Therefore, we broke workshops down in three parts, 1 hour each, each took place on weekly basis.
In the implementation phase, we met unexpected obstacles when trying to identify schools that – due to the pandemic – were organized well enough and prepared to participate in the project. We had to take into account that the teachers and headmasters were at that time under a lot of pressure and stress because they needed to plan all lessons online and were not willing or did not have capacities to devote even more time to inviting and organizing their pupils who were at home due to social isolation. Only two schools responded to our invitation and engaged their pupils in our workshops. Therefore, we turned to youth centres and met a similar situation. Mostly, their users were not motivated to meet online or in the case of a daily centre for youth and families that operates in the frame of a social work centre, they did not receive instructions how to act in the situation. However, we were pleased and happy that we found youth centres who could overcome these obstacles and were interested and ready to participate.
Having all planned out, suddenly another turning point took place, making our project journey dramaturgically even more interesting. Epidemic in Slovenia was cancelled as the first in the EU and pupils were invited back to schools, their daily rhythm dramatically changed again, however restrictions were still harsh and it was quite difficult for us to find a youth centre that was in position to fulfil all the (new) demands in the Covid-19 restriction directives (social distancing). What made it even harder to find participants was the fact that summer was coming fast and it is in the young and children’s nature not to be very excited about activities that demanded them to devote some of their free time and spend more time inside. They were already excited about approaching holidays. Many schools again had no capacities to organize their pupils to engage in the project at the time as they again faced a lot of complications trying to reorganize their work.
Re-planning the workshops’ schedules and project activities, (re)adapting methods to in-person workshops and re-calculation financial scheme (again) took place in Azum and a lot of energy and time was devoted to this. But we managed and now we are in the phase of finishing a tool for teachers, trainers, educators, youth workers – a handbook, in which activities will be described and material, collected during workshops (reflections, photos, drawings, feedbacks) will be included. Please feel free to contact us for your free copy, if interested.
It is a hard journey but also very rewarding as all pupils, students, teachers and youth workers that participated in this project, are convinced that more attention needed to be paid to the topic of dating violence and that the method we used was very effective. We feel we are on a good way to strengthen and improve our work in the field of awareness raising and promotion of global citizenship education and sustainable development goals and further, that drama and theatre are a truly strong tool to work with if used with care and in expert way. Violence is a very sensitive topic, especially with children and youth and the facilitators of such workshops need to have knowledge also from other fields, that enables them to recognize the group’s and individual’s limits.
The Azum Institute was founded in 2015 for the purpose of creative activities, research, counselling and educational as well as therapeutic activities. Currently, among its principle activities is work with youth and children in the field of drama and theatre. Since its beginning, the Azum Institute completed several successful projects besides the drama school for children (which runs on regular basis): most of them for vulnerable groups (children, ethnic groups/minorities, persons with disabilities). Our work is integrative, inclusive and multifaceted.
This project is co-funded by the Bridge 47 project. The contents of this post are the sole responsibility of Azum Institute and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.