Katrina Berishaj Vujačić, an Italian language teacher with over 18 years of teaching experience, resides in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. Her workplace is in Tuzi, a nearby small town situated close to the Albanian border. At her mixed high school, Katrina conducts classes in both the Albanian and Montenegrin languages to cater to a diverse student body. Additionally, she holds the position of President within the Italian Language Teachers Association of Montenegro. Beyond her regular Italian language instruction, Katrina actively participates in non-formal teaching initiatives. She has led a volunteering club at her school for over six years and concurrently engaged in numerous projects under the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO).
While participating in a RYCO project that involved the Italian Language Teachers’ Association from both Montenegro and Albania, Katrina learned about the Superschools Western Balkans School Exchange Scheme, which is dedicated to supporting the peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts in the region. She recalls, “RYCO organized information sessions about the Superschools scheme, attended by teachers and school representatives from across the region. I took part in one of these sessions and was immediately convinced that our schools should participate.” After the informative session, Katrina scheduled a meeting with her school principal to discuss this opportunity. With the principal’s endorsement, the school joined the Superschools exchange program.
As part of the program, Katrina’s school hosted students from Stevan Sremac High School in Nis, Serbia, at their campus in Tuzi. Here, students engaged in joint classes covering various topics, providing them with a chance to collaborate, establish new connections, and form friendships. Reflecting on the experience, Katrina shares, “We hadn’t encountered anything quite like this before and were initially concerned about how it would unfold. However, from the very first day, the students bonded remarkably well and began functioning as a unified class. It was as if they had known each other for a long time.”
Katrina notes that initially, students with Albanian ethnic backgrounds in their school were somewhat apprehensive about participating in this project, mainly because it involved students from Serbia. However, by the conclusion of the exchange, there was a noticeable and positive shift in their perceptions towards each other. She explains, “I believe this exchange had a significant impact because the workshops covered topics such as stereotypes, prejudices, and the discovery of common interests and cultural traits among individuals with diverse backgrounds. This aspect worked exceptionally well during our exchange experience.”
In Katrina’s view, the Western Balkan region would greatly benefit from more projects of this nature, as they contribute significantly to furthering peacebuilding efforts, which are currently in high demand.
About the project
Superschools is a RYCO programme for school exchanges in WB6 with the objectives to support the peacebuilding and reconciliation process and intercultural learning and dialogue among schools, students and their communities. The programme is part of a multi donor project “Western Balkans School Exchange Scheme” co-financed by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) together with the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO). The project has a total budget of €5.5 million and contributes to the overall objective of increasing skills and knowledge of young people in the Western Balkans by enhancing education systems and promoting cooperation in the region, through establishing a regional school exchange scheme.
Photo credits: Superschools
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