Public consultation with pupils and students in Durres

Remarks by Prime Minister Edi Rama at meeting in Durres as part of a country-wide public consultation recently launched with pupils and high school students to discuss a new National Youth Strategy 2022-2029:

 

Hello everyone! Thank you very much for taking the trouble to attend this consultation meeting and for your contribution, and I would like to tell you that the cycle of meetings hosted by the Minister of State for Youth and Children with pupils and students across the country – I have had the opportunity to attend some of them – are nothing else, but our strong desire to learn a lot more from you about the shared issues, your worries or wishes for your success during this stage of your education.

And for the sake of truth, it is quite interesting that people with no links of whatsoever to each other, people who don’t know one another, boys and girls coming from various cities across the country, having in common the fact of being currently at school and together address several common issues, although they may differ on certain points, with some of them having an opinion or special idea not typical to the shared concerns and ideas.

To provide a concrete fact of today, which I believe is valid to illustrate what I was trying to say that how important it is for us to make the best out of this communication. Today we have been discussing and dealing with the next year’s state budget.

Why am I telling you this? Because some of the most pressing issues that have been raised at all meetings were actually discussed today with the cabinet members to directly address them through the next year’s state budget.

One of the issues being raised at all meetings has to do with the current low IT teaching quality, because the IT classrooms and labs are not properly equipped and as such they fail to provide the required conditions for quality learning and teaching, so that pupils and students are not taught mechanically and theoretically, but be taught in a creative and practical way.

Another pressing issue raised at our meetings has been the lack of teaching quality at lab classes or courses, because labs are poorly equipped and because of the limited tools mainly due to the lab classes curricula and students rightly complain over the impossibility to attend an attractive and informing learning at labs, which would motivate them to experiment and learn a lot more.

Another issue I came across during your discussions here, and I think it is a common issue concerning many girls and boys, is the environmental education. I am very pleased to find out that this is something that worries the best performing students at most, because the criterion applied to these meetings has been that the participants should be the best performing pupils and students as we can learn more from them about certain critical aspects of classes.

Another important issue is that of the curricula and the after-school artistic activities, with one of you here focusing on the musical profile because of the subject he has chosen, concerning literature and solfège.

Someone else, at a previous meeting, raised a similar problem regarding the artistic profile of visual arts classes, while the concern over the quality of career advice tips for students is omnipresent. Where all of these are bound together that are somehow a sum up of everything you said and the things we frequently come across? Earlier today we decided to provide direct funding for the IT labs and digital learning through the next year’s state budget.

You of course know quite well – I don’t know whether this is also the case with your schools – but you know that a good part of the IT teachers today are actually math and physics teachers, who are forced to teach IT in order to meet the number of classes criterion.

It is of course highly respectable what they are actually doing in terms of their commitment and dedication, but this should not continue to be the case with the IT classes and courses, but this can’t be the future of the IT classes. That’s why we will start work to complete the school labs, not all of them at once of course, but with the aim to make sure that labs full equipment is a short-term goal.

On the other hand, completely transform the IT teaching system, providing the opportunity to all pupils and students be taught creative, appealing and quality learning that is no longer a mechanical and theoretical one, but a practical lesson by taking advantage of a lesson we all have learned during the total lockdown and during whole this period of the pandemic, which has taught us that it is not necessary to attend the classroom spaces in person in order to share our opinions and know-how, or even share our worries. Which means that we plan to introduce IT lessons starting in the first grade, and build a system where thanks to the distance education and e-learning, with the teacher being present at the classroom, be taught a significant part of their subjects by a group of best performing teachers and lecturers. They will be girls and boys, women and men that will come together to form a central team and by coordinating the schedule and timetable of a number of schools they will deliver lectures and teaching sessions via a screen in the IT classrooms.

This will be valid for pupils and students to have a teacher or a guidance counsellor in distance and it would also help the teacher himself or herself improve capacities by undergoing a training program on a very special teaching process.

The cabinet has also explored the opportunities to include Art and crafts as a subject on the school curriculum, as well as the sports program and a special fund to support voluntarism, environmental education in every school and not in the vocational education schools only, as well as the sports curricula through a specific funding that would also include voluntarism, and environmental education as an imperative, so that –as one of the girls said here – the pupils’ lives or the student’s lives are no longer confined within the classroom only, but instead actively engage pupils in activities designed to develop skills and talent, as well as promote their involvement in activities to the benefit of the community.

To this end, we will certainly support a part of the process, which is designed to provide opportunities to every school set up their sports and artistic groups based on the children’s skills, talent and desire, while the rest will help to develop the children’s spontaneity and readiness to launch voluntarism initiatives and we will explore opportunities to fund such initiatives.

For example, the coastal city of Durres heavily relies on tourism for its revenues. You all know that Durres is the main destination for the summer holidays or the tourism hotspot in terms of the large number of people and the life intensity during the summer months.

But, on the other hand, we know quite well that the higher the visitor numbers grow, the more the consumption increases due to the large influx of tourists, the higher is the need for us to also protect the environment and raise awareness among the public, telling people that it is not only the municipality and the central government the only ones tasked with cleaning the city, but it is part of being a citizen by not polluting the environment.

Therefore, if a group of pupils and students wish to set up a team of volunteers, but creating such a team turns out to be not sufficient, since sharing such a desire with a group of 20 people to engage in a several day or several-week awareness campaign activity to urge those who use the city’s beaches not to pollute the environment is not enough and therefore a certain financial support is needed to build the capacities for a really quality activity by issuing leaflets, t-shirts so that in the eyes of other people you are not merely a group of unidentified young people.

I brought this very simple example and of course it would be great that we don’t ask for voluntarism, but it merely becomes a reality and such initiatives gain support in terms of logistics and required material base for various voluntarism activities.

On the other hand, some of the participants in these consultation meetings, who are seemingly willing to engage in voluntarism, they have demanded that certificates for various volunteer activities are issued as a testimony to participation in such activities and it is actually true that such certificates in many countries are worthwhile to assess a potential candidate who wants to take a certain job position, because the certificate indicates an aspect of the personality and integrity of the applicant in front of you, because it is not enough for an applicant to reply accurately when it comes to hiring for certain job positions in specific companies, organizations or institutions, but a potential candidate should also enjoy some other features like teamwork and ready to work overtime etc.

The arts, crafts and sports program will be valid either at the basic level of a school, or at the local level, ie at the level of a municipality, or at the level of a county or at the national level, making it available through a well-thought-out organization a whole infrastructure, to ensure that individuals of this age group seeking to compete at a national level as talents in music, or as talents in visual arts, or as a group of volunteers who have had the most positive idea and impact on volunteering activities in the territory, whether as the best team in an activity or in a sports activity, to be able to do so and throughout the year, including the summer season, all of them who want to develop these talents, all those who want to organize and want to compete, be granted this opportunity.

Me poshte vijon pjesa e dyte e konsultimit publik me nxenes dhe studente per strategjine e re per rinine ne Durres:

But, in addition to the competition within each school, pupils will be also provided with some addresses directly related to such activities. All these would be really great if we succeed in delivering them all together, yet there is another aspect, we deem very important, because apart from art, sports, voluntarism, schoolchildren and students should be also taught some concrete know-how on the nature, the country’s history, the cultural sites and the national history, not only history of Albania, but also Kosovo and so on and so forth, as well some basic information and knowledge over the land, the agricultural and food products, in which we plan to involve the Ministry of Agriculture along with the Ministry of Culture, Education, Tourism and Environment.

Wherever we would be given the opportunity to take over a small agricultural land plot, whoever of you wishes to take care of that plot, as well as develop certain skills on land cultivation, and if a group of pupils or students want to do the same, efforts will be made that somehow a larger land plot is made available to them somewhere outside the urban areas.

We continuously talk about the climate change, a topic we encounter so frequently recently and we will come across it more frequently, but it is important enough that several simple principles and a series of issues directly linked with the sustainability of the community life and the human life on the planet start becoming part of this journey. All these are to say and tell you how important is for us to build bridges of communication, because providing everyone the opportunity to talk is the best side of democracy and the more people listen to one another, the more the quality of coexistence enhances, but the fact that democracy provides everyone with the opportunity to speak up and all those elected or govern the country are then judged by everyone else means, besides everything else, that no government knows everything, while even very simple things, which concern the everyday life of an interest group, a community or an age group may go unnoticed even by individuals and groups, experts or professors that know a lot more than anyone else.

The issue of the career advice, for example, is something in the process and you are definitely part of the process. So, given that the career advice issue is in the process, then there are definitely individuals who know it better and have included this issue in this process, after considering it a very important thing. However, on the other side, it is really worrisome hearing you saying that the career advice fails to provide an exhausting and final picture of what we are seeking to deliver in and fails to assure us that we are moving into the right direction in developing our opinion. And this is certainly very important for the decision-makers to listen to your concerns firsthand. Trust me, it is immensely crucial, because these meetings may sound something theatrical, as part of the next show on the television.

Indeed, taking notice of what I have been informed by Bora, the meetings taking place without my presence are actually better the ones I participate in, because obviously pupils and students feel freer when I am not there. When in front of the cameras, you may be overwhelmed with emotions and find it hard to say the things you want to say.

The reason these meetings take place in public is for pupils and students in other parts of the country see for themselves that a dialogue on the national youth strategy has been launched, because many strategies have been developed in Albania. Albania could be the country with the highest number of the written strategies over all these years. However, if a strategy, no matter how the individuals tasked with drafting it, its goal is to address problems concerning a certain social group, a certain community and if not so, such a strategy is doomed to fail.

That is why even in the most developed world, when they draft strategic documents, policy documents, even at the highest level of expertise, they do precisely this; they consult with the people such a policy document or strategy is being developed for. I personally think that such consultation gatherings are really valuable, because by listening to various groups we can figure out that these repeating things really need to be tackled. They are all important, everything is necessary, but the problem is that now we need to address the most pressing ones and the issues that can really take us to another level.

Finally, the issue of the support or the conditions we need to create in order to provide you and your peers with the opportunity to gain know-how in the world of technology.

In tandem with these programs we plan to introduce into the school curricula, we are working on another more specific program on training the future coders. The program is designed to grant young people of this age group to attend six-month intensive training courses, similar to ones taking place in the United States and now being applied everywhere throughout the world, so that information and data of several years is collected and provide young boys and girls with the right tools to access the technology world and find best paying jobs.

Today, besides the job market we see with our own eyes and is a job market that is as big as the globe and is open to anyone living on this planet, without having to leave your house and sitting in front of the computer at home.

It is not a fantasy, but a reality and is the world’s largest job market for everyone today. It is a market that is growing rapidly and needs skilled talented people. Of course, for qualified people who know how to access that screen and who know another language, which is not English, nor Albanian, nor Arabic, but the language of the computer.

A number of Albanian young boys and girls, living in Durres, Tirana, Korca, Shkodra and elsewhere have already accessed such a market and they stay in front of the PC screen all the day, work and provide services as employees and part of enterprises operating in the virtual world. Such companies might be based in Australia, New Zealand, or in other countries throughout the European continent, and they receive much higher salaries than they would be receiving if they would access the labour market that offers job positions for certain type of diplomas, or if they were to emigrate abroad.

We can deliver on such a transition, which will of course take some more years, but the opportunity technology offers to the one who for a thousand and one reasons lags behind others, such as Albania, you can make a very big leap, a revolution, without having to go through an evolution as it used to be.

Once a typewriter was invented and it used to take many years for a new upgraded version of the typewriter to be produced and so on and so forth, whereas thousands, if not dozens and hundreds of thousands of things are invented on daily basis nowadays and the progress of the technology is tremendous. Providing such an opportunity to young people, to this age group, to access all these spaces is a task we should take up and deliver on.

I would add something regarding the school libraries. Someone of you discussed about the libraries. It is true that a lot can be done in this respect too, because I have visited and seen many schools across the country. The girls asked whether the work on the school libraries has already started. I have got the impression this is part of the projects on the new schools under the EU-funded programme, because construction of the educational facilities funded by the Albanian government has already completed or is about to complete, while construction of the first block of schools under the EU programme is also already underway. The program on the school libraries is surely included in the second block of the EU-funded project.

I have noticed that libraries are available at the new schools or at somehow older schools, but their book collections are poor and therefore we have embarked a process in collaboration with the publishing houses. In the meantime, Minister Bora is also drafting a special programme for schools. I am confident we will deliver on this programme and we will complete the school libraries gradually step by step. One cannot do everything at once and things won’t be done in a long run over the years, but within a reasonable timeline. It is all about neither a long-term nor a long-term plan, but a medium-term one. I am confident we will complete the school libraries over a span of just two years.

I don’t know whether you stuck your letters on that table. All the letters are than collected and notes are taken on everything you have written on them. Some things could be left unsaid during a conversation and it could turn out to be easier for you to write down your ideas and proposals. Those who support voluntarism can discuss with their friends about new ideas and write them down and forward to the Minister. We will write down all these opinions and proposals you forward at these gatherings. The strategy will be largely based on your opinions and the initial draft-strategy will be distributed to each and every one of you – I mean not only you attending these meetings, but you’re your peers. Of course, not every one of you is going to read the strategy, but this doesn’t matter that much, while many of you will definitely read it and will make remarks and then on basis of your proposals and criticism we will come up with the final strategy that will not be a written book houses in the library, but will form the basis on which the entire further program will be built, further government policies on the youth throughout the period 2022-2029 will be developed.

For the girl who asked whether should go abroad or stay here, whether to choose what she is told to choose or choose what she feels is the best thing to do, my answer is very simple: “Ask your heart and mind and go on.” After having listened to everyone and about everything, and eventually navigate and do what your mind and heart tell you to do. If your mind tells you “this is the right path you should embark on” and your heart agrees, then just do it and go ahead. If your mind tells you “this is the path” but your heart doesn’t give any sign, then think again, because it takes the heart to pursue the mind’s bold answers. It doesn’t matter where you are heading to. What matters most is that it is you the one who decides the destination you are seeking to head to. This world belongs to the brave ones and those who dare to pursue their dream are always successful.

Thank you very much!