As this year winds to a close, the Auschwitz Institute’s Warren Educational Policies Program (WEPP) reflects on the global challenges that have emerged in the face of increasing inequalities, political polarization, and environmental degradation that have been compounded by the prolongation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Inspired by the legacy of Holocaust survivor Naomi Kaplan Warren (1920-2016), the Warren Education Policy Program has continued to work throughout these complex times to advance human rights and democratic values in the field of education to help build societies that are more resilient to the risks of genocide and other mass atrocities.
In July, the WEPP launched the second phase of the Citizenship, Memory and Culture of Peace project in El Salvador, in collaboration with the office of the United Nations Development Programme in El Salvador (UNDP). The project’s main objective is to contribute to strengthening the capacity of the education system in El Salvador in order to combat discrimination and different forms of violence, as well as to combat rising levels of prejudice by promoting a culture of human rights and a commitment to democracy among younger generations. In addition to reexamining the project resources produced in 2018, this phase of the initiative aims to train more than 900 Salvadoran teachers and educators on these topics.
In Brazil, the program has continued to work on its project entitled Citizenship and Democracy in School. In February, the WEPP marked the launch of its Distance Learning Platform. The Platform aims to promote and facilitate access to free virtual training programs for teachers and educators who participate in AIPG’s various educational projects around the world.
This platform has been fundamental to the development of WEPP’s work, which in 2021 has managed to train more than 600 teachers throughout the country. In total, since the project began in 2018, the WEPP has trained nearly 900 teachers in Brazil. This work has also been enabled by the establishment of new collaborative agreements and relationships in other Brazilian states beyond São Paulo, Paraíba, and Brasilia, such as Alagoas, Ceará, Goiás, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, and Belém (in Pará).
Additionally, as in previous years, the WEPP has prioritized efforts to support its “educational community,” during these complex times for teachers and students around the world. On October 15 — National Teacher’s Day in Brazil — the WEPP launched, as a part of its Citizenship and Democracy in School project, a specialized Activity Kit, which focuses on the return to in-person classes. This resource helps educators to build a welcoming, safe, and respectful community within the context of a return to face-to-face instruction. The Activity Kit also facilitates reflections on the impact of COVID-19 among students, both to better understand the effects of the pandemic on an individual level but also as a community, national, and global experience.
These efforts have followed the trajectory of broader programmatic efforts since 2020. One result of this, was the April 2021 presentation of an e-book resource entitled Citizenship and Democracy in School during COVID-19: An Experience from the Socioeducational Schools of Paraíba State. This project — the result of a collaborative effort between AIPG’s WEPP and the Secretary of Education, Science, and Technology of the State of Paraíba — aimed to show the thinking of young people from the six internment units of Paraíba’s socio educational system on topics such as racism, inequality, and human rights through the production of artistic pieces.
Due to the initiative’s success, the WEPP launched a new proposal, using its Activity Kit, to motivate students returning to the classroom. Again collaborating with the Secretary of Education, Science, and Technology of the State of Paraíba, the new initiative culminated in the “Festival of Arts: Impacts of COVID-19 from the perspective of students of Escolas Cidadãs Integrais (ECIs), Escolas Cidadãs Integrais Técnicas (ECITs) and the socioeducational ECIs of the State of Paraíba.” The Festival event was broadcast live on December 10 — International Human Rights Day — and attended by representatives of AIPG, Paraíba’s Secretariat of Education, and Brazil’s Federal Public Ministry, as well as two educators and a student involved in the initiative. The submitted materials are currently available online here.
Finally, to reinforce its capacity to design innovative projects that respond to the needs and realities of any context, the WEPP joined with AIPG partner organization Protection Approaches to hold an international seminar entitled “Democratic Education Needs Imagination” in November of 2021. The closed-door event featured 30 participants from around the world, including university professors, public officials, members of civil society, and representatives of other international organizations. In March 2022, the primary output of this collaborative initiative will be published as a report in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. The report will systematize the discussions held by the invited expert group and work to inspire reflection on the ways in which public education frameworks can improve their operations to ensure that they can adequately fulfill their roles and responsibilities in the creation of more inclusive, just, and solidarity-minded societies.
Looking forward to 2022, the Warren Educational Policies Program intends to continue expanding its activities across the diverse lines of work that were developed during 2021, in consideration of the challenges that already exist and those that are yet to arise as a result of COVID-19’s impacts on educational systems around the world. Dr. Clara Ramírez Barat, Director of AIPG’s WEPP, explains:
In light of the continued progress made by vaccination programs and a gradual return to face-to-face classroom education, our team is excited to be able to contribute — in the best possible way — to the strengthening of this new phase from the outset. It will not be easy, but together we can build very positive paths towards the construction of more democratic and solidarity-minded societies through education.