Citizenship and Democracy in School during COVID-19 Contest

Within the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, education has suffered greatly. According to UNESCO, approximately 1.5 billion students in 190 countries around the world have been kept from school. In Brazil, schools are closed, with many young people left isolated at home and unable to study or spend time with their peers. In addition to the negative impact this this has on learning, prolonged home confinement and loss of the scholastic routine have their own negative impacts on the well-being of younger populations.

Concerned about this situation, the Warren Educational Policies Program (WEPP) organized a series of meetings with teachers who are part of its educational community to learn about the challenges they have faced during this period of distanced education. Following these conversations, the WEPP sought to support them in their work by adapting the contents of its Citizenship and Democracy in School project to the context of the pandemic. With these materials, teachers were able to create a safe space with their students to discuss issues related to democratic citizenship in the time of COVID-19.

Seeking the involvement of students remained a challenge, especially those in a situation of social vulnerability, considering the prevailing conditions which have made maintaining a scholastic routine difficult. In Brazil, 4.8 million students between the ages of 9 and 17 do not have internet access.

With this in mind, the Auschwitz Institute decided to launch a contest, with the aim of rewarding the artistic production of public-school students who participated in the development of the project during the first semester of 2020. By the end of the submission period, AIPG received 34 works of art from students, including comics, drawings, photographs, videos, and music. A 10-day open voting process for the Citizenship and Democracy in School during COVID-19 began on August 27 and ended with 1,544 valid votes being cast.

In the category that includes submissions from students from 9 to 11 years old, the winning production, with 302 votes, was a comic strip by 9-year-old Ariel from Brasilia. His comic narrates the life of a poor family during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To see the full comic, click here.

Ariel also recorded a video for his teacher Dayane, in which he talks about what he learned and what it was like to participate in this initiative:

For Dayane:

Participating in this contest was a challenge due to the educational context in which we live. The discussion of cross-cutting issues related to the pandemic brought me closer to the reality of my students, while also showing my weaknesses as a person and as a professional. I was extremely happy with the interest and engagement shown by all of the students, as well as the effort and dedication of the families in support of the initiative. In the teaching and learning processes, dialogue is fundamental. From this point, the construction of significant life knowledge begins.

In the category containing submissions from 12-15-year-old students, Celina Raquel, a 15-year-old from the State of Paraíba, was selected as the winner with 139 votes. Celina’s photograph came as the result of discussions held with her classmates and her teacher, Luana, on human rights, violence against women, depression, and racism, among other issues related to the COVID-19 context.

To view the full photo, please click here.

Celina’s teacher, Luana, explained what it was like to develop this project:

During this unique period that we are living through, it is necessary to be attentive to the creative stimuli that arise in the daily lives of our students. I often tell them that creativity is an exercise. We are all born with it, but only a few exercise it during their lives.

The pandemic has put us on an equal footing, perhaps a first in modern times. It has shown us that we are flesh, bone, and heart – a human being lives inside this body, one that is full of plans, fears and expectations. This sort of existential progress goes far beyond having a good job and a good husband. The discovery of the common good, of shared happiness, of fraternal charity unites us in human progress.

The pandemic has made this clearer and has made our weaknesses more evident: our selfishness, our narcissism, and other diverse evils. We are seeing everything enlarged. Our gaze is more attentive. Our hearts are more sensitive.

With all this, we let our eyes say what we think and what we feel. This look is captured in Celina’s photograph. This look says a lot about our students in this period of pandemic and remote education. And, what’s more incredible, it says a lot about us, ourselves.

Finally, the category for students over 16 years old was won by Leonardo, also from Brasilia, with 85 votes. Leonardo composed the song O Coronavirus, which you can listen to by clicking here.

The main objective of the WEPP contest was to motivate students to participate in project activities during this difficult time. In total, approximately 500 students from 7 public schools in the Federal District of Brasilia, São Paulo, and Paraíba participated in the discussions and activities provided for through the Auschwitz Institute’s Citizenship and Democracy in School project.

In recognition of the fact that this contest was designed to provide a space for reflection on important issues and to encourage the participation and creativity of students, AIPG will deliver a diploma and participation award to all students who made a submission. These prizes will reflect the educational nature of the contest.