A striking difference between the high school experience for young women in the United States and that of Kosovo is the number of opportunities to learn, develop, and pursue talents outside of the classroom. Extra-curricular activities (be it athletics, art, poetry, theater, chess, etc.) provide a platform for young women to shine. The Gjimnaz ‘Kuvendi , Kosovo is seeking funds to support programming that will promote a culture of non-traditional learning and talent development amongst the student body (male and female) at the gjimnaz. The creation of this new culture will be achieved through the initiation and implementation of school wide competitions and activities that equally engage male and female participants and taps into an array of skills and talents outside of the classroom. This project will lay the groundwork for a culture that encourages female participation and creative exploration that will challenge the mind (chess club/tournament), develop skills (ping pong club/tournament), encourage artistic expression (theatre excursion and mural design competition), expand one’s world (outing to the Junik mountains), test athletic ability (track/field day), stimulate creativity (poetry competition), and inspire teamwork (sports days volleyball, soccer, and handball tournaments). Competitions and activities will be delivered by host country professors, and each competition/activity will have a framework that can be expanded upon and repeated for years to come.
In the Spring of 2018, several PACA (Participatory Analysis for Community Action) activities were conducted with a group of students at the gjimnaz. The series of PACA activities investigated the strengths and weaknesses of both the greater community and the gjimnaz community. 12 students (7 female and 5 male), with an age range of 15-18, were engaged over three separate PACA focused meetings. Activities included asset/deficit mapping, problem trees, group brainstorming, and decision dots. Deficits identified by the group included a lack of outside the classroom programming and a general lack of materials and infrastructure for non-academic activities within the school. Coupled with the asset of an active, intelligent, and driven youth population, the group identified a possible project of creating more school activities and improving the school's infrastructure to accommodate the activities.
Separately, a number of the professors at the gjimnaz spoke with the PCV informally regarding extra-curricular school activities. One conversation indicated that students used to meet and practice ping pong, but these meetings were no longer taking place. Another conversation regarded a professor's interest in beginning a chess club and competition at the school. These conversations lead the PCV to hold additional conversations with the professors regarding potential school activities for the 2018/2019 school year, with a focused effort on engaging the female population of the school. Professors indicated an interest in leading activities and competitions for ping pong, chess, art, theatre, sports, athletics, and poetry.
An integral aspect in the sustainability of the project is the involvement and enthusiasm of students and professors. The involvement of professors will encourage the sustainability of the project as they will be a driving force in the continuation of these competitions and activities during future school years. A professor that takes ownership of a successfully delivered competition/activity will feel driven to recreate the success the following school year. Additionally, the students themselves will serve a key role in the sustainability of the competitions and activities. Young women from the student council will serve as competition/activity liaisons, and they will lead the recruitment charge for each competition as the student body changes year to year. When a professor/student engages in a successfully delivered activity, the school population will have a stake in recreating, expanding, and improving the activity during the next school cycle.