School of participatory democracy

UNDP in Moldova
Feb 24 · 7 min read

At the age of just 7, Gloria Botnari knows what steps voters should follow at a polling station and, in particular, what precautionary measures they need to take to protect themselves from COVID-19, as well as those around them. Gloria has won the second edition of the Electoral Vlogging Contest for children aged 7–11 years organized by the Centre for Continuous Electoral Training (CCET) with UNDP Moldova and USAID Moldova support.

Gloria Botnari, the electoral vlogging contest winner

The winner is a first-grade student at high school “Mihai Eminescu” of Sudarca village, Donduseni district. And what Gloria talks about in the video she learned from the third edition of electoral comics, “Arci against COVID-19”. The comics reached to Gloria’s school last autumn, when the CCET and UNDP, with USAID Moldova support, organized the mobile campaign for children and parents “Arci’s journey to elections”. Almost 15,000 children from 100 schools located in 80 communities throughout Moldova received the respective comics. Hence, the children, their parents and teachers learned about the anti-pandemic measures necessary to be complied with during the presidential elections conducted in November.

Doina Cenusa, 4th grade teacher: “By being involved in different activities during the classes of ‘moral and spiritual education’ and ‘personal development’ we would like to develop the child’s genuine democracy. When our school received the electoral comics, the pupils were enthusiastic and started looking through and reading the magazine. In my turn, I told them they could show the comics to their parents, neighbours, inform them as they had every right to tell them how to cast their vote in pandemic times”.

The children from Sudarca village had been the most numerous and most active participants in the vlogging contest. Hence, four school students from Sudarca high school embarked into the contest, including two primary school grades, namely the 3rd and the 4th.

Sudarca school is an example of those education institutions, which developed non-formal education along with traditional education. Pupils and teachers are involved in tens of creative and interesting projects both regionally and nationally. They pay a great deal of attention to participatory democracy.

That is why even the youngest schools children of Sudarca are involved in elections. Each primary grade shall elect its leader. This election process is pretty curious for everyone. They need to write the name of the candidate they would like to elect on a piece of paper and throw it in a box, waiting for the votes to be counted. When the children are in the 5th grade, they participate in the election of the School Council.

4th grade, ‘personal development’ class

Elections were held responsibly and safely in the school in October 2020. Bearing on the Practical guide for conducing elections in schools Students Councils, they elected the Council’s management. The elections were conducted by the members of the Elections Office during the lessons’ breaks, under the observers’ scrutiny. All school students involved in organizing the event wore masks and gloves, making sure the voting pupils had disinfected their hands. They also installed a voting booth and box where the 5–12-graders left the ballot papers.

Prior to the Elections Day, the candidates engaged in an electoral campaign, and Silviu Plopa, an 11-grade student, won the elections, having gathered 65% of votes. Silviu felt more responsible just after a few months of holding that position.

“I managed to wake up this spirit of responsibility in myself, and now I feel I can do much more than before to meet my schoolmates’ expectations. I am confident that the experience I gained as a Council Leader would help me in the future, even in my life. Let me bring an example. I would like to follow a business career and, should I become a company leader, the skills I am acquiring in school would build the foundation of my future activity as a manager,” mentions Silviu.

Ariadna Dron, a 10-grade student, was the runner-up. That was a surprise both for the teachers and for Ariadna, who joined high school “Mihai Eminescu” last September. She managed to become known in just one month prior to elections, having gathered the schoolmates’ votes to become the Council’s Deputy Chairperson.

“I believe that when it comes to decide the fate of the country via my vote, I would follow a process similar to the one organized in our school. Therefore, I think that the experience gained within the Council would help me avoid making mistakes in the future, as I would know already all the procedures to be followed at a polling station. In this way I would need to take the correct decision. I would be certainly an active voter because I understand that my vote may change something and can change something for better,” says Ariadna .

Natalia Zaiat, who holds the high school principal position for five years, started to practice the civic and electoral education in school over a year after she represented Donduseni district at the training conducted by the Centre for Continuous Electoral Training (CCET) with UNDP Moldova’s support and in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research. During the training, the teachers of ‘civil education’ and ‘education for society’, as well as the representatives of the District Education Directorates discussed the role of electoral education in democratic society, following a more practical than theoretical approach. The participants familiarized themselves with democracy teaching methods, games and alternative sources, which were useful in organizing the classes for different ages.

Natalia Zaiat remembers that she returned home full of impressions. She contacted the CCET shortly, having invited its representatives to organize an interactive information session for the primary school pupils, as well as for the high schoold graders. The CCET accepted the invitation and, since then, Sudarca school collaborates with the non-formal education experts whenever it initiates a new project on participatory democracy.

10th grade, education for society class
A meeting of the Student Council

“We aim to be more active in 2021 as compared to 2020, to participate in different projects, including international ones. We shall continue learning and practicing democracy in school, because we have a beautiful country and we should develop it by being active from the civic standpoint,” notes Natalia Zaiat.

Eva Bounegru, Project Manager, UNDP Moldova: “The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for everyone. We needed to rethink the path to reach to children — the future voters. We feel content to see that the children liked the elections comics, which were useful for teachers as well when they explained the protection measures against the virus. Quality education and developing democracy in school — this is the UNDP response to COVID-19 pandemic”.

Hedgehog Arci started a new journey throughout the country. The mobile campaign for children and parents “Arci’s journey to elections” continues. The CCET volunteers, with UNDP Moldova and USAID Moldova support, should reach to 100 schools located in 10 districts of the Republic of Moldova. This time, the campaign novelty is the fourth edition of electoral cartoons titled “Arci for barrier-free elections”. The children who colour the magazine and learn about barrier-free elections are invited to embark on a new electoral vlogging contest.

This article has been developed by UNDP Moldova in the framework of the “Enhancing democracy in Moldova through inclusive and transparent elections” project, implemented with the support from the American People provided through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

More information about enhancing democracy in Moldova through inclusive and transparent elections is available at undp.md/electoral-support

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