The first edition of the School Councils Camp brought together students from all over the country
50 students from the 9th to 11th grades from all country’s districts took a break from their vacation and came to the first edition of the School Councils Camp. The event was organized by the Center for Continuous Electoral Training (CCET), with the support of UNDP and USAID Moldova, on July 12th to 14th, 2022.
For three days, immersed in the inspirational atmosphere of the touristic complex located in Ialoveni’s Costesti village, the young people experienced an extensive program of trainings, practical exercises, role-playing games, debates, but also various fun activities. They learned how to become leaders in their schools, how to make their voices heard through successful public speaking, how to organize elections in school councils, how to develop and manage projects for the community, but also why are democracy and civic activism so important. In this process participants also shared their experiences as school counselors.
As a final exercise, students formed 10 groups and developed projects for schools, which they presented and then voted on via a real election exercise. The first three winning projects were awarded and participants received diplomas, gifts, and generous clapping from their colleagues.
The School Councils Camp will strengthen participatory democracy in regional schools
Marcela Rosca, CCCET trainer, pointed out that although the School Councils Camp was a new activity for the Center’s team, it enjoyed an unexpectedly high interest from the student community. Out of 245 applicants, only 50 students were chosen after a competitive selection round.
Throughout the last three years, with the support of UNDP Moldova, thousands of books, magazines, and teaching materials, as well as dozens of competitions and information campaigns in the field of civic education have sent the message of democracy to children in schools and kindergartens across the country. Therefore, she hopes that the knowledge and skills acquired by students at the camp will further strengthen participatory democracy in regional schools, while sharing experiences with colleagues from other schools will bring inspiration for new activities and projects.
“During trainings, we focused not only on the elections for school councils, but also on civic activism, on the development of leadership qualities, and on the responsibility of making decisions for the entire school community,” says Marcela Rosca.
Speaking about his experience as a trainer at the School Councils Camp, Mihai Rotaru states that the camp’s activities went far beyond the schoolyard, given that the trainings addressed topics such as applying democratic principles in elections and participating in local administration as future councilors, mayors, or deputies:
“The School Councils Camp is unique because it becomes an excellent platform for exchanging opinions and experiences between students involved in council activities as a follow-up to promoting democracy and civic involvement of young people in schools.”
”The participants had the opportunity to get to know each other, to analyze why an initiative did not work in their school and what would have been the solution. At the same time, it was a useful exercise for us, the trainers, to improve our programs. Students learned interesting information about the activities of student councils in other countries, and what practices they can take over in Moldovan schools. We are waiting to see the results of the School Councils Camp in the fall, when the students will return to school and will want to apply the knowledge in their institutions,“ added Mihai Rotaru.
At the School Councils Camp, the trainer Aliona Placinta came with her 4-years-old daughter Mira. After participating in many activities along with students, but also moderating trainings for teachers, she was convinced that democracy and civic activism should be educated early-on and the example of parents is the best lesson for children.
“I am very happy to see sparks of interest in the participants’ eyes, as well as ambition to learn something new and to create a council of students in their school according to all the rules of free, democratic and transparent elections.
I hope that in these three days we managed to inspire and motivate them to bring home the best practices both from Moldova and abroad. Our goal was to promote civic activism among students, so that they get involved on a much larger scale and act not only out of personal interest, but also for the good of society upon becoming adults,“ said Aliona Placintă.
Student councils — a launching pad for future community leaders
Stefan Parsov, a student in the 10th grade from the Comrat High School, came to the School Councils Camp with a rich experience as a counselor. For four years he was a member of the school council in the gymnasium from his native village Sadic in the Cantemir district and for one year served as the council’s head. Stefan said that the counselor’s activity is very interesting and that he had something to share with his “beginner” colleagues.
“I regard the activity of student councils as a very important one, because future leaders have the opportunity to develop their potential right from school desks. It also requires a lot of responsibility. When I was a head, I even had to take blame for the mistakes that I did not make. But I understand that this comes with being a leader,” said Stefan Parsov.
Daria Guma, an 11th grade student at the high school from the Cotiujenii Mari village in the Soldanesti district, has been the head of two school councils for several years — the high school council and the district one. At the camp, she shared her experience of organizing a contest for students from schools in the Soldanesti district to assess the level of awareness on students’ rights. The children presented short videos and poems and the best works were awarded. Also, among the successes that Daria is proud to have conducted a survey on the challenges faced by students during puberty, which served as basis for further organization of thematic lessons for the members of school councils from all the villages of the Soldanesti district.
“I could say that the activity in the school council is a hard job, because it demands a lot of responsibility and it is very good if you have the support of teachers and colleagues. I leave this camp with new knowledge about public speaking, but also with a project built together with the team,” concluded Daria Guma.
Branza Dana, an 11th grade student at the “Mihai Eminescu” High School from Sudarca village, Donduseni district, came to the School Councils Camp to fulfill a dream — to become a mayor or even a parliament member. The future leader has experience in the school council since 5th grade. At the summer camp she set out to develop her public communication and leadership skills with the goal to reach higher and accede to the national student council in the near future.
“Our school council is not large, but we manage to organize a lot of activities. First of all, we organize events for holidays, Christmas, and Easter, as well as charity campaigns for needy families in the village. Just recently we raised money for an orphanage from Chisinau, but we usually help families from the village. Sometimes we collect aid for 2–3 families, other times for 10 families. There are children who have a very difficult financial situation, that’s why we always help them,” said Dana.
Now, Dana, like the other participants, can’t wait to start the new school year, to apply everything she learned at the camp in her counseling activity.
But, in addition to the wealth of knowledge and ideas they took home, the young people also experienced lots of positive emotions and made new friends.
The School Councils Camp was organized by the Center for Continuous Electoral Training (CCET), in the framework of the project “Enhancing democracy in Moldova through inclusive and transparent elections”, implemented by UNDP Moldova, with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).