Listening to children and youth and integrating their perspectives as an essential parameter in educational policy reform agendas and engaging them effectively in enhancing their learning environment as responsible young citizens is one of the key guiding principles of Elham. Read more. Hence, growing a creative, effective and sustainable partnership with children and youth in the context of the "learning for well being" quest has been one of the more challenging endeavors for UEF and Elham.
Two approaches to youth engagement where adopted:
The Voice of Children Initiative
In this context, UEF undertook the development of a "voice of children and youth" advocacy-survey research toolkit. The VoC aims at mapping and understanding children's attitudes, views and feelings about different aspects of their learning environment and their perceived influence on their well being. Read more on the VoC. click here
Elham would be informed by the VoC findings in the design of the areas of focus within its nomination kit. Issues and aspects of the school environment on which children voiced major concerns would be identified, articulated and synthesized to become priority areas for intervention. In other words, the VoC will highlight the key issues within children"s learning environments that stifle their well being and subsequently Elham will identify, support and mainstream initiatives and practices that contribute significantly to rectifying those issues.
For example, if the surrey findings reveal that students voice particular concern over the poor quality of human relationships within their school, then Elham would first make enhancing the quality of human relationships as one of its main areas of focus and will identify, showcase and mainstream inspiring initiatives undertaken by teachers, principles and counselors which have contributed in various ways towards enhancing the quality of human relationships within the school community. In doing so, Elham would be making the perspectives, needs and concerns of young people as the centerpiece of its focus.
Elham Palestine has adopted this approach and made it a reality. Indeed, the findings of the Palestinian VoC survey did constitute significant input in its Palestinian localization process. This is the first mechanism for engaging children and youth in the Elham process.
The Elham Youth Panel
The second approach which Elham Palestine crafted for engaging children as young partners was realized through their authentic engagement in the evaluation process of Elham"s pool of initiatives. In fact, an Elham youth Panel was set up consisting of representatives of key youth organizations. The panel was engaged in a capacity building exercise. The exercise aimed at helping students develop their own understanding of learning for well being and the criteria they will adopt in evaluating Elham"s initiatives. Students undertook an independent review of the shortlisted initiatives.
Engaging children in the evaluation of initiatives undertaken by their teachers and principles is an innovative practice that has deep meanings. For once, roles are reversed. Students do the evaluation and the interviewing and principles and teachers have been quite respectful and accepting of this approach. After all, who would have a better appreciation than children themselves of initiatives that did make a difference in their life journey?
All people involved in the evaluation process from government, academia or civil society were totally inspired by the capability, competence, professionalism and integrity manifested by the Elham youth panel throughout the whole process.
Building on the success of its first pilot, Elham intends to consolidate its partnership with children and youth in its future cycles.