Mondialogo School Contest, A platform for intercultural dialogue
Subrata Kumar Das
Appreciating cultural divesity, respect for difference, interaction of cultures and intercultural dialogue can only bring one out of his/her own prejudices and limitations. Tolerance and understanding that are the expectations from these are the principal components that can help endure peace among nations. With this view UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) along with DaimlerChrysler initiated Mondialogo School Contest in October 2003 as a platform for intercultural dialogue among educators and students across the globe. UNESCO thinks that if our young people are provided education characterized by intercultural dialogue only then they will be able to make the future world habitable with peace and without war.
In the Second Mondialogo School Contest 2005-2006(the first one was in 2003-2004) more than two thousand and five hundred school teams are participating. Each team consisting of 4 to 30 members are peered with another team of another country, even of another continent. In the second contest 'We Love Bangladesh' team comprising the students of Birshrestha Munsi Abdur Rouf Rifles College, Peelkhana, Dhaka (See above picture. The writer is seen in the middle) tried, in their own way, to keep pace with the international views of the leading organization named UNESCO.
Our Peer Team:
All the participating teams of Mondialogo School Contest have been peered with another team. We have been peered with a team from Abuja, Nigeria. The name of the institution is Loyola Jesuit College. Team name is LJC UNESCO TEAM.
The methodology that Mondialogo teams are suggested to follow is: I, You and We process. In details it encourages every team member to know about one's own culture, history, tradition, values, festivals, religions and language more and more. Then it inspires to know all of these of the peer team as much as possible which is termed as 'You' phase. In the 'We' phase the most extensive dialogue and exchanges take place. Within this phase, intercultural dialogue enables students to not only exchange their views but to share ideas and reflections on a wide range of crucial issues like non-violence, sustainable development etc.
We two teams decided to work on the themes of 'National Days of Bangladesh and Nigeria'. We planned the team members will work on days of respective countries and finally make a tangible product.
What we did during the project:
Though the project spans from January to June, January ended without any communication with our peer teamand June ended in Year final examination of the students. What we did are:
1. Matched our students and their students that they can befriend with each other and thus gradually try to know each other personally, familially, institutionally, culturally and finally nationally.
2. Involved students online in different activities given in the Mondialogo Web Portal ( www.mondialogo.org ). The main two activities were to make a team page (every member team is provided space to make a team page) and to answer the weekly questions.
3. Involved students to work on the national days of Bangladesh International Mother Language Day, Independence Day, Pahela Baishakh, and Victory Day. We sat together once, sometimes twice, a week and make our action plan and reviewed the feedback. Students were advised to gather knowledge on different aspects of the individual days and write articles or to take snaps on them.
4. Created a tangible result. We decided to make a wall portrait where the individual days will be exhibited chronologically with an introductory part on the top.
Mondialogo Web Portal:
The huge but easily accessible web portal of Mondialogo is the main resource to work on the project and develop intercultural dialogue. Just click www.mondialogo.org and you will reach the wider horizon. Click the Mondialogo School Contest icon at the top serial and among many you will get a list at your left. If you dive into the list you can find all the team pages or profiles of the team leaders and other participants. The site can take you to the first Mondialogo contestant teams as well. Moreover there are the newsletters, discussion threads etc.
The students with whom our team has been made include: Mahmudul Hasan Munna, Ishtiaque Ahmed, Rishad Manzoor Rahman, Shahjalal Numan, Rezewana Wahid, Waseka Wahid, Lazina Hossain, Shamima Nasreen,Sharmin Akter, Maliva Haque, Mostafa Kamal, Zinia Rahman, Atiqur Rahman, Safiqur Rahman, Nahean Islam, Rizwan Murshed and N Shafayat. On the other hand the team members of Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja, Nigeria ( LJC UNESCO TEAM) are: Mirabel Osakwe, Antonio, Funto Okuboyejo, Dafi Rogers, Vanessa Karimi, Chizitera Beverley Njoku, Faridah Dikko, Genevieve Umeh, Ann Atajir, Chidi Uguru, Paul Alade, Chukwudi Ilozue, Tukeni Obasi, chioma emetarom, Edia Uko, Folakemi Ogundipe, and Joan.
Problems we faced:
1. Organising the students and encouraging them to be acquainted with the Mondialogo web site seemed impossible at the very outset.
2. For long we could not contact the team leader of our peer team as was entitled on the Mondialogo portal. We mailed to the Mondialogo team but they only requested to be more patient telling us that a school of other continent may have a different annual schedule of school vacation or there might be some other greater problems. And what a tragedy! In the first week of February 2006 I got the first mail from the Team Leader of LJC UNESCO Team that said many of their team members had died in a plane crush in December 2005 on their way for holidays. So they had to reshape their team.
3. We do not have any internet connection at our college. So we had to bring students to commercially operated cyber cafes, though it was not that much easy. Parents did not like their kids go to cybers as most of the cyber cafes are the dens of pornographic pactices. More than that there were problems like: bringing some twenty students to a cyber, doing the whole job as a class room, paying the bill etc. At least we spent fifteen Fridays at cybers from ten in the morning to one or even two at noon.
What we have gained:
1. Developed tolerance and patience
2. Awareness of multifarious diversities
3. Not thinking that ours is the best
4. Minimum knowledge of Information and Computer Technology
5. Results: The jury will select 50 teams as the finalists which will be declared in mid-September and the team leaders as well as the students from the 50 finalist teams will be invited to attend the International Symposium to be held in Italy in November 2006.
Educators from all over the world opine that intercultural dialogue is part and parcel of quality education of 21st century. Interdisciplinary approach, team teaching, participatory and creative methods effective use of ICTs are the essential components of intercultural dialogue. Mondialogo School Contest emphases these needs and creates environment to practice them. Let us conclude this article with the plea of Mondialogo Team :
“The experiences of the Mondialogo School Contest can become milestones on your students' path to being genuine junior ambassadors, conscious of their cultural, remaining flexible with others, willing to share and to appreciate the cultural backgrounds of others, and being actively involved in intercultural dialogue and exchange. If with your help, we manage to achieve this, then together we will have taken a major step on the road to a more peaceful future.”
(Subrata Kumar Das lectures at Birshrestha Munsi Abdur Rouf Rifles College, Peelkhana, Dhaka. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
(R) thedailystar.net 2006