Training teachers from South Ossetia

The second of Alert’s psycho-social trainings for teachers from South Ossetia took place between 20th-22nd September in the city of Istanbul, Turkey. Following on from the first seminar in Brussels earlier this year, the agenda and methodology used aimed to impart skills required to deal with individual and social trauma, the result of repeated cycles of violent conflict in South Ossetia, most recently in August 2008.

Participants learnt new skills for working with children and for early identification of psychological problems. Exposure to interactive training methodologies meant the teachers gained first-hand experience of interactive learning methods, acquiring tools they could use in the classroom.

Days 2 and 3 focused on planning for social change, recognising how self-help and community mobilisation can be a powerful antidote to social trauma. Participants became acquainted with the project management cycle and started to plan their own initiatives for implementation on their return home. The initiatives ranged from extra-curricular cultural and educational activities for children (dance, music, English classes, school trips), to an environmental ”clean up our town” campaign, to organising vocational education and training for youth in leadership skills aimed at enhancing their life chances.

The essence of these trainings is that they offer the teachers a ”creative impulse” to help them work in what can be quite demanding and not always rewarding circumstances. Some of the initiatives planned require minimal external resources other than moral and methodological support provided by the trainers. On a psychological level, participants experienced a kind of rehabilitation themselves, with one saying ‘I’ve regained self-respect and feel able to face life’s challenges again’. On a practical level, teachers who attended the first training in June brought examples of how they had already started to use some of their new skills – such as being able to see problems from another’s perspective, managing conflicts between youth, and helping others analyse their problems.

The next training is planned for January 2011 and will elicit lessons learned from implementing social projects, consolidate learning from the whole cycle of trainings and planning for the future.