Project “YOUth Ambassadors of Non-Formal Learning”
Country: North Macedonia
Interviewer: Andrijana Tashevska
Interviewee: Bojan Petrovski
Date and location: 28.05.2020. via Zoom
Bojan Petrovski – President of National Youth Council of Macedonia.
– I am the newly elected president of the National Youth Council of Macedonia for six months now. I live in municipality Djorce Petrov, Skopje. Currently I am working with a couple of international foundations on a couple of international youth projects that are being implemented on local and international level. I am also a member of the Local Council of Municipality of Djorce Petrov. Half of my professional career is related to the civil sector and half to politics.
National Youth Council of Macedonia is composed of member organizations. New member organization of NYCM is MODOM from where I come from, which is really interesting because it shows that there is diversity in the membership. Тhe member organizations themselves have given confidence to a man who comes from a political youth organization to be a part of the management board, which confirms the diversity of NYCM. At no point does it come to mind that this body belongs only to civil society and non-governmental organizations. This is a proper Council where every member is equally represented in the Council and gets an equal chance. It is a great honor for me to be a representative of the political youth organization because we know the situation in the Balkans and in our country with the trust in the political parties. So I think this is an opportunity for a man of political youth organization to show something quite the opposite that even young political parties and young politicians can contribute to the development of society and the development of the entire youth sector.
List of questions for the Interview:
- Is the law defining NFE in your country? If yes, please describe what the law says.
– I am not sure that the legal framework for non-formal education is precisely defined yet. There have been several changes in the last 7 years. The section on non-formal education is not fully defined, on the contrary, it is divided into several legal regulations. A completely new law is needed which would cover in detail non-formal education and lifelong learning. Research conducted in 2009 by civil society organizations warns of shortcomings in the law in the field of non-formal education and I can freely say that even today we have evidence that this has not changed. I do not know a student who can say that non-formal education is implemented in everyday life or that there is a legal act on this that they can use. For example, university internships are included in some legislation, but are not implemented at all.
- Please describe the existing strategies, action plans that define non-formal learning in your country?
– There is a consolidated text written at the end of 2016 and adopted in 2017, in the part of adult education there is a section, for which I will say again that non-formal education is not used as a term, but there is a term for improvement, training and learning of adults persons where it is explained strictly for job providers, service providers and a very small part of 4 sentences where non-formal education is mentioned. There are local processes that are conducted, but again they are not legal bodies. I know several municipalities that in the municipal program in administrative work and work of the Council have an action plan for cooperation with non-governmental organizations for the development of non-formal education.
- Have you been involved in the development of a strategy / action plan / law in excess of the NFE issues?
– Personally, I have not been involved in drafting a law on non-formal education. I haven’t had the opportunity because I was never even invited. I have worked on a lot of action plans – as part of the civil sector and 3 years ago as part of the NYCM secretariat. There was cooperation with institutions in the process, however not in legislation but in an action plan that would be a document – a piece of paper that needs to be further implemented. But unfortunately I think that sheet of paper is standing somewhere in someone’s desk. In summary I had the opportunity to be part of a team for developing an action plan at the local and national level but only as part of the civil society organizations.
- Do you work on promoting NFE and how?
– I work in every way to promote non-formal education. Even before I became part of the NYCM, as a youth activist I tried in every way to promote non-formal education. We need to start on a personal level first, and find a way to promote non-formal education on our own. Personally (not as a member of an organization) I pay much more attention to the non-formal education I have, it has helped me a lot more in my career development than the formal one. Fact is that higher education is needed, fact is that upgrading requires going to college etc. – that is the whole education process. But I think that without non-formal education, the whole process of education is absolutely useless. I am honestly not the most satisfied with our educational process in the country, compared to where we want to be, part of European countries. We are very late and that is the problem – the part where formal and non-formal education need to be merged. To return to the topic, I have used all kinds of promotions, I have held trainings, I have created action plans, now as president of NYCM we find every way through our projects and through cooperation with member organizations and local and regional offices to promote all ways from which young people can access non-formal education. The fact is that there is a lack of a state strategy for non-formal education, there is a lack of information about opportunities for non-formal education – from ordinary actions to trainings and internships. I personally use every possible channel through which I can reach someone. Either individual – in company, when you sit down for coffee to have a conversation up to the organizational level. In my experience, young people have nowhere to go to find out about opportunities related to non-formal education. In European countries, 40% -50% of education is based on non-formal education. In our country, I can say that 99% is formal education, the rest is if someone comes in contact with an NGO. The entire burden of promoting non-formal education falls on NGOs. This is how it should be, every mission and vision of an NGO, but I think we should systematically insert it somewhere where it will be legally regulated, where every young person will have a chance to get information about non-formal education. It should be literally embedded in his daily education system.
- For your institution/CSO how young people recognize NFE?
– It is interesting that non-formal education is a very broad term and we cannot give it a definition. This is very good because we can incorporate it into every part of society and from everyday life. I had a very good friend who said to me “Bojan, even the street, neighborhood socializing is informal education”. We have had informal street education since we were children, unknown and undefined, developing the team spirit. In kindergarten we learn how we should all work together as friends, as a group, to get the reward faster – to be let out into the yard 1 hour earlier so we can play outside. Even then you realize that you need to work with each other – for the development of the group, and if the group develops faster it will receive the next reward. The definition comes with the very growth and development of person. When I was 10 I understood it in one way, when I was 20 in another way, now when I am close to 30 I understand it completely in a third way. In the student days you understand it as a practice – you need teaching, improvement, but you understand it as if it is not part of the everyday educational system. In our country it is very sad that even though it should properly be part of the daily student learning, they perceive it as something they can only find outside of universities. I can not specify the answer because it is very diverse and everyone understands it differently and it is very personal. I do not want to define it by definition because it covers different segments of the whole life and that is the moment of lifelong learning. But at the moment in our country we experience it as something we cannot find in institutions, universities and schools and that is the problem.
- What are you doing about NFE in term to make closeness with youth?
– To get closer to the youth, there is no other way. I think that as non-governmental organizations we have created a bubble. We must be self-critical. We have to get out of that bubble as soon as possible. We do not see that because we are stuck in our daily lives and I think we need to get out of our comfort zone as soon as possible. There are young people who have easy access to information, young people who have some access to information and young people who have no access at all. There are young people who do not have access to a telephone, let alone the Internet and more. I think that as civil society organizations we should focus a little more on our work and engagement to those young people who have no access to information, and be louder in every way we can. It is also very important to become partners with the institutions because there are the people who make the decisions. We are the ones who are corrective of every institution, of every Government, corrective of the state at all times. But I think we need to become more partners with the institutions where we can become part of the decision-making bodies, that is a very important thing. I think that the Law on youth participation and youth policies has a part where it says that civil society organizations will become part of those decision-making bodies. But I think we should first be part of the process of creating decisions and solutions, to get inside, if we are not inside we have a problem – first we will not have enough information, let alone pass it on to those who have no information at all. And secondly, to get out of our bubble and be more on the field. That is my personal opinion. I think we should go beyond creating publications and documents. It is more important to go out on the field where we will ask what is needed. That's me, self-critical about some things. All those surveys that we do when we try to reach a target group of young people, I think we come to that target group that really has the required information, that know how to get the information, that have the opportunity to get the information. A complete change is needed to reach those who have no way of gathering information. That's it for now. Three things are very important:
- To be part of the decision-making processes
- To go out on the field
- Reach those young people who do not have access to information
If we are part of these three things, I think that the information channels will be opened and there will be a way to inform the youth more.
- Have you involved young people in the process of bringing about things that are relevant to non-formal education?
– If it were a matter for me personally to make that decision, I would absolutely say yes, and I have included and will include them in the consultation process and in all those processes that are part of non-formal education, such as joining trainings and various other things. But I will speak now as an organization. We take every opportunity to reach out to member organizations and young people. I will mention a very good example: MladiHub office – where non-formal education is literally done through different types of training. It is possible to see it everywhere and it is published everywhere, the calls are published everyday. Through these calls we reach a large number of young people who would like to be part of a different type of training, to acquire IT skills or some other skills. We do some community service together. To summarize, I would say yes, in the current position I am, we include young people. It is never enough for me, but I find any way to involve young people because it is necessary, and I think that every young person should go through that process of non-formal education so that the other process of formal education and career building will be much easier for him later.
- Should the Government get involved and make an even bigger contribution when it we are speaking about youth and policies about youth?
– The government should be involved in every way. The government has task to provide a better life for young people, access to information, access to all kinds of facilities because there are marginalized groups, people with disabilities, young people whose basic human rights have been curtailed, I am talking about LGBT people, for all those young people who are part of everyday discrimination. The government is a body voted by the people that gain the confidence to solve the problems of the people and to provide a better life for the citizens. I absolutely believe that young people should be involved in all decision-making processes – both locally and nationally. By being inside they would make a bigger contribution than what we have now, the Government should ask, it should consult with young people. The Government should work more on the anti-discrimination part, more on the accessibility part, it should enable the youth to have contact with many stakeholders and with many bodies, so it should be included in every segment. I would not exclude it from anywhere, because there are people who run the institutions, who work for the benefit of the citizens and the youth. For example, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, where we have to sit down and talk first about education and then about social issues that bother young people and that we as civil society organizations, individuals or informal groups think is better. Only consultation and involvement of young people in all decision-making processes will give results, normally where it is needed and where it is related to young people, because I think that no one knows better than young people themselves what young people need. If they do not ask us I think they would stick to those general promises, which I think are good and should be mentioned but there are many things we now know and that we now have the opportunity to exchange experiences with our colleagues from abroad that I think can be easily implemented here with hard work and strong will.