Regional Human Rights Educational Center
at Gymnazium Příbram, Czech Republic
There is no doubt that the International Year of Culture and Peace gives a variety of new flavors to the ASP environment and brings a lot of new efforts and energies to the participants for celebrating this event with new ideas and activities.
A Czech high school of Gymnazium Pribram meets this event with an intensive work of the Regional Human Rights Education Center, the only one which works at a high school in the Czech Republic. It was established in November 1998 by organizing free English and Italian classes for adult disabled students in wheelchairs. A variety of other activities followed quickly and have enabled the school to participate in the UNESCO Associated Schools Project.
The activities of the Center are based on a voluntary free of charge work of teachers and their students before and after school hours as well as on weekends and during the school holidays. Those activities are the focus of the ASP reality where the participants share the life of the community, proposing many new challenges and experience. All the activities of the Center are based on a direct impact on the students and teachers with the aim of promoting their knowledge of the Universal declaration of human rights as a mean of alerting people about the unequal opportunities and unjust circumstances, raising their volunteer spirit, and teaching them to see people in need and serve the community.
The Center directs, coordinates and evaluates three projects based on Tolerance and Awareness Curriculum. All the projects have become the part of our students' regular English Conversation Classes. Tolerance and Respect Project (based on cooperation with the NGO Bohemia Corps) leads the students towards critical thinking and discussions about minorities. In April 1998 the first international Evaluation Conference of Tolerance and Respect Project was held in the town of Pribram, and another one is scheduled for the next year. The other two projects called World Heritage in Young Hands (UNESCO) and Multi-cultural learning (based on cooperation with AFS organization) include human rights education, intercultural education, education for the volunteer workforce, and global consciousness.
The Center has started a mutual cooperation with the District Adviser for Roma Issues and the Assistant for Roma Children´s Teaching at the Educational Authority in the Region. Five student volunteers have been tutoring Roma elementary school pupils for half a year and their two Roma protégés have managed to pass the exams which enabled them to leave so-called special school and go back to the elementary school among other Czech pupils. Those student volunteers will be key-note speakers at the second international annual Teachers for Tolerance and Multicultural Pluralism Conference in Prague in January 2000.
In reaction to special events and pressing human issues the Center has been fundraising tirelessly for an automatic doors for the district's disabled citizens and refugees from Kosovo, and has encouraged the students of the district to join in the fundraising efforts. The Center was helping Bohemia Corps with the Serbo-Croatian version of the phrases in a four-language (English-Czech-Albanian and Serbo-Croatian) dictionary published for needs of international volunteers who went to Macedonian and Albanian refugee camps in May and June 1999. All the work on the dictionary was done free of charge.
An active participation in conferences and discussions on human rights education is seen as a very valuable source of information and motivation as well. The director of the Center serves as the International Preparatory Committee Chair for organizing annual conferences Teachers for Tolerance and Cultural Pluralism based on the GSFI program. Teachers together with their students regularly participate in the Prague Post Foundation´s Roundtable Discussions on Education for Civil Society and have presentations at various international conferences including the last one in Borków, Poland, in September 1999 - From Global Security to Transborder Initiative - and the upcoming ones in Olomouc, the Czech Republic, in October - Multicultural Education in the period of globalization - and in Prague, the International Seminar organized by the European Federation of Intercultural Learning in November 1999.
Recently, a completely new project is being created in order to support ethnic minorities in the district and make them visible to the community. Following ethnic diversities programs such as Roma Heritage Week or the Festival of Vietnamese or Ukraine's Heritage will be organized at the school of Gymnazium Pribram. The students will be encouraged to host Pribram´s visitors in their families, especially those visitors who belong to other races and are representatives of entirely different cultures. The first visitors from the South-African Republic, university professors, should come to Pribram in January 2000 and the Center has already the student volunteers who are eager to host these African guests.
In June 1999 the Center started a new tradition of rewarding students, teachers, educators and other people involved in education with a humanitarian prize and thank-you-awards for their efforts to contribute to the community and defend human rights in the Region.
There is a strong belief within the Center that teachers can play the most powerful role in making changes in a young generation's thinking and their acting as responsible citizens. Teachers can raise a challenge and give their students a guideline how to reach equal rights for everybody and make the world a better place to live. This is a teachers' human task to take that responsibility as the crucial, breaking point in our struggle for an equal community and society.