Group 484 program “We and the Others” has existed since 2000. It was conceived as a result of the commitment to the democratisation of education in Serbia at the time of general social and political changes. It was initially launched under the name “Alphabet of Democracy – the richness of diversity”, with the idea to be a part of emergency, urgent measures in schools in the post-war period. It has grown into an educational program that has a continuous, clearly defined approach to young people, especially to high school and university students.
Since the beginning, the focus of this program has been the attitude of Serbian citizens towards others in everyday life, in war and peace, in history, in art, in politics. We are trying to change the perception of others as enemies (being a dominant perception in school curricula, as well as in the media, in the (post) war experience of citizens). We cooperate with high schools, cultural centres, professionals in culture, supporting those with the same values and trying to influence others. We work in Serbia and cooperate with similar organisations and individuals from the region. Our target groups are mostly high school students and their teachers, but also students of social sciences, humanities and literature. We have appealed to government institutions, relevant ministries, local governments in our efforts to influence educational and cultural policy to respect cultural diversity: with some we have reached mutual understanding and we work together, with some, unfortunately – we have not.
The development line of this program has led us to the point where, relying on a wide range of associates, we advocate for systemic changes in education. We advocate for changes in the Literature and History curricula in high schools, as well as the intersectoral networking and cooperation among: educational institutions – cultural institutions – civil society organisations. In terms of content, we are committed to incorporate regional literature in school reading, history of everyday life in the History curriculum, as well as to connect institutions and organisations in the context of intercultural dialogue in the country and the region.
At the same time, our attention is also focused on students of humanities and social sciences: young people we wish to encourage to think and explore the role of education and culture in transformation of society, but also to legitimise the social “status quo”. We believe it is necessary to influence the establishment of a value system that would support the policy of transitional justice and constitutionalisation of democratic system.
In mid-2013, the program “We the others”, together with its associates, started visiting centres for accommodation of asylum seekers, meeting and talking with asylum seekers, with a view to bring their experience closer to, above all, the citizens of the communities the asylum centres were located, as well as other citizens of Serbia.
The result of these visits is the exhibition on the life of migrants “The Border is Closed”, perceived as an activist and political event: it introduces life in the museum, and from there it takes it to the school, raising important social and moral issues. The educational dimension of the exhibition is for us extremely important and therefore, within the program we closely cooperate with high school teachers and their students.
During fifteen years of work, this program has encompassed more than 15,000 young people, over 500 teachers from 45 towns in Serbia. We have worked with partners at the local, national and international level. Our forms of work are varied: organisation of seminars for teachers and seminars for youth, educational camps, support to local actions, realisation of reading clubs, art workshops, round tables in local communities, national and regional conferences, as well as activities related to publishing.
The results of our work are visible at several levels. Evaluation studies show that ethnic distance in young people who have participated in our programs has noticeably decreased. They have improved their social skills, developed sensitivity towards minority groups and all forms of human rights violations. The teachers and students we work with provide us with unambiguous feedback according to which our seminars, related literature we have given them have significantly improved their professional competences.
Our goal is that in time to come we remain engaged and active in changing the perception of those “others” as intruders and enemies, through intercultural dialogue. With our work with students we want to analyse the situation in society and talk about possible strategies to improve this situation. The idea is to emphasise the importance of social sciences and humanities in understanding and encouraging changes in society.
Our wish is to contribute to education of youth who critically analyse the world around them, and one day will have the opportunity to build a better and fairer society.
The program also engages high school students through reading clubs. The clubs used to exist or are still active in the following towns: Bela Crkva, Dimitrovgrad, Kikinda, Kragujevac, Zrenjanin, Novi Pazar, Uzice, Pozega, Kosjeric, Belgrade, Vranje, Vladicin Han. The clubs bring together high school students who read authors from the region. The list of favourite writers is: Almir Alic, Nenad Velickovic, Svetislav Basara, Robert Perišić, Viktor Ivancic, Ljiljana Dirjan, Dragan Mladenovic.
Students are involved in the program “Humanities in Transition”, continuously organised in cooperation with the publishing house “Book Factory”.
The program has publishing activities: in the period 2010 – 2014, we published five series of five books in the edition called “Little Box” and six issues of the magazine for literature in school – “TekstUra”. Other publications are listed in the section Publications.
With the “Little Box” edition we want to attract high school students to the world of literature, especially to encourage reading of the books from the region. The edition contains excerpts from literary works of Balkan writers and with its content and form is designed to be attractive, humorous, intelligent and benevolent to young readers to draw their attention and inspire them to read the literary works. “Little Box” comprises of five booklets – short editions of books or articles selected and entitled by the authors themselves for the needs of the edition. Each author recommends another author on the last pages of his or her book.
“TekstUra” is a magazine for literature in school and a primer for neighbourhood literature. It is intended for teachers, expert associates, librarians – professionals who by nature of their work are interested in the place of literature in secondary education. Naturally, there is an unconcealed desire for “TekstUra” to be enthusiastically read by high school and university students … “TekstUra” is interested in the role of literature in the moral development of youth and society in general, in literature as a field of affirmation of universal human values, but also in literature as a means of indoctrination . The authors of “TekstUra” are trying to explore the complex and dynamic relationship between the literary language and the time in which it has been created or interpreted, recommending to the readers the texts of authors from neighbouring countries, primarily the contemporary literary production in the languages of the Balkan peoples that has a capacity for universal education goals – aesthetic, ethical and cognitive ones.