Sports and Youth Development in Gostivar
A programme which utilises sports to develop youth engagement skills and strengthen social cohesion in Gostivar, North Macedonia.
In 2020, the municipality of Gostivar created local policy that focuses on preventing violent extremism with a number of strategic policies – one of them prioritising strengthening youth resilience to radicalisation. As a part of the plan, sports is listed as a tool for developing youth engagement capacities among physical education (PE) teachers and local coaches, and for strengthening social cohesion amongst young people in the culturally diverse city.
Young Cities supported Gostivar authorities by working with them as well as local experts to train PE teachers from all schools in the municipality to develop skills to develop a programme for youth engagement through sports. The 12 teachers trained received further mentoring while working directly with a small group of elementary school students. They put their newly acquired skills to the test by independently organising and leading a three-day summer camp for a multi-ethnic youth group. Young Cities will also team up with the municipality to support the opening ceremony of a new sports field where youth will be invited to make the space their own, and participate in activities with peers from different parts of Gostivar. To ensure sustainability, an educational programme for youth engagement and social cohesion through sports was created as a reference point for teachers during the school year.
Sports that Unite
Youth engagement is difficult in North Macedonia as a result of the sense of general apathy that is pervasive among young people because of high levels of government distrust. Gostivar is no exception in facing this challenge. Social cohesion among youth is severely impacted by mono-ethnic schools which contribute to the creation of disconnected parallel societies. These divisions were identified through the Young Cities consultations with city stakeholders and Youth Resilience research. Sports provides an opportunity to bring various communities to a common venue to participate in activities that promote teamwork and confidence building. Moreover, sports offer the government an alternative approach to creatively develop the skills of young people and enhance their trust with city institutions and each other.
Extracurricular Models for Peace
Sports are included in the Gostivar municipal government’s local PVE Action Plan as an avenue to strengthen social cohesion among young people from different ethnic backgrounds. Through this project, it became clear that bringing young people together to engage in physical activity and team sports can encourage cooperation and understanding. There is significant room to build on this progress and allow the project to grow and continue to make an impact.
Moving forward, PE teachers who were trained through this city initiative will use their new knowledge and skills to improve their classes and design extracurricular activities aimed at building social cohesion through team sports. The educational programme that has been developed will serve as a reference point for current and new teachers to support them in designing and delivering high-quality and inclusive modules that develop youth communication, leadership, and teamwork skills.
The Gostivar Community Action Team can also work with the PE teachers and youth groups that were engaged in this initiative to develop projects focused on creating and protecting joint public spaces for youth.
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