Unlocking informal educational pathways for young people
UPSHIFT engages adolescents across Syunik to tackle community issues.
According to the World Economic Forum 2023 report, the labor market will increasingly seek individuals equipped with analytical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, leadership, communication, and self-education skills. These competencies are projected to be in high demand by 2027.
UNICEF’s UPSHIFT programme for adolescents and young people equips them with precisely these skills.
Goris marks the latest destination of UPSHIFT programme, made possible through the financial support of the European Union. Twenty young individuals have come together under one roof to address their community's challenges and present their innovative solutions. With seed funding of 100,000 AMD, these teams are now ready to embark on the implementation of their projects, starting today.
The journey leading up to this moment has comprised several significant stages. Information sharing sessions were conducted with young people in the schools in three communities: Verishen, Karahunji, and Shinuhair. Concurrently, UNICEF and the “Youth Initiative Centre” NGO (YIC), with the support of Goris Press Club, provided training for mentors in Syunik. Young people were then invited to submit participation requests, presenting their ideas on what they want to change. Among the thirteen applications received, three were chosen for the next stage. To further cultivate their potential, a program development course was tailored for these young individuals, with each team being assigned a dedicated mentor.
During the full day bootcamp held in Goris the representative of Goris municipality warmly welcomed the young participants and expressed their commitment to support their projects. During the bootcamp sessions, key resources were shared with young people, including guidance on preparing presentations and managing the project. All teams aim to complete their projects by the end of July, underscoring the significance of effective time management skills.
"It was my first experience leading a team. Working with and uniting a team is no easy feat. It becomes even more challenging as we are all in our final year of school. Nevertheless, each person's participation holds immense value. It is essential to listen to every team member attentively and to make decisions collectively,"
Rafi and his team aspire to foster agricultural development with a specific focus on livestock. He expressed concern about the diminishing availability of land and reduced grass supply for livestock, leading to the unfortunate trend of people selling their animals and abandoning their communities. Their innovative idea involves utilizing a specialized device that enables wheat sprouting, yielding eighteen kilograms of grass from merely three kilograms of wheat within a short span of five to six days. Considering this pressing issue, Rafi emphasized the cost-effectiveness of producing grass using their device, which is even more affordable than traditional means.
Another team taking part in UPSHIFT Syunik wants to establish a dedicated place for their peers. In Karahunj, there is a library-reading room that was once vibrant but has recently been repurposed for other uses. Recognizing the significance of having a functional library-reading space in the village, they firmly believe it serves as a valuable hub for gathering, networking, reading, self-education, and personal development.
"We will organize film screenings, offer a variety of engaging board games, and inspire our fellow villagers to actively participate, benefit from various literature, and establish a dynamic youth club. In doing so, we aim to address the village's challenges progressively,"
She acknowledged the numerous issues prevailing in Karahunj, including transportation limitations, concerns regarding landslides, and the scarcity of employment opportunities within the village.
The team has already taken proactive steps by organizing a petition and rallying like-minded community members. Subsequently, they engaged in constructive discussions with the administrative head, who expressed a commitment to assist and revive the library-reading room.
"This was my first attempt at financial management. I conducted a comprehensive price survey, visited multiple stores, and diligently sought out the required accessories, ensuring the optimal balance of price and quality. With the guidance of a mentor, I meticulously devised the budget essential for executing our project. This experience holds great significance to me as it fuels my aspiration to pursue a career as a finance specialist,"
The third team, mindful of the potential for escalation of conflict, recognizes the vital importance of having a well-equipped medical room within the school premises. Their objective is to furnish the first aid station with essential supplies and facilitate first aid training sessions, enhancing the school's readiness to respond effectively during emergencies.
"The village of Shinuhair also faces numerous challenges. Within our school, the absence of a gymnasium and a chemistry laboratory poses significant setbacks. However, establishing a medical center is paramount at present," asserted the team members.
Fifteen-year-old participant Ani shared that she was hesitant to speak up and express her opinions at first. "However, after attending several meetings, my confidence grew. Now, I confidently articulate my thoughts and effectively communicate with my fellow team members," Ani said.
According to trainer Anna Yeghoyan, "UPSHIFT achieves something even more crucial beyond the transformation of ideas into actionable projects, the proficient presentation of concepts, effective teamwork, cooperation, and self-confidence. It enables young individuals to view their community through the discerning eyes of engaged citizens. They not only identify prevailing issues but also actively seek out solutions. We offer a comprehensive journey from problem identification to resolution, where young participants are not merely passive observers but active agents. They themselves determine the most pressing problems and explore ways to address them," Yeghoyan explained.
Thirteen-year-old Nona said that while she had always been troubled by the issues in her community, she had never realized that she could be part of the solution by uniting with her friends.
"We also aim to demonstrate that young people are capable of tackling significant community challenges and making a positive impact for everyone. We genuinely care about the problems that affect our community."
When asked what young people require to become more engaged in community matters, Tatev responded: "They need companionship, supporting organizations, and undoubtedly, projects that instill confidence and motivation. This initiative has been a first of its kind for our village, and I hope this won’t be the only one.”
"There are still limited avenues for young people in small communities to access non-formal education, making it of utmost importance to create these opportunities irrespective of their place of residence. UPSHIFT Syunik embodies the spirit of collaboration, specifically promoting cooperation between diverse communities within the same region. It is through such collaboration that substantial transformations can be attained, enabling young people to realize their full potential on a broader scale,"
Young people possess boundless potential and can achieve remarkable feats; all they require is the opportunity to soar to greater heights with programmes such as UPSHIFT. UNICEF works with the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture and civil society partners to promote opportunities for adolescents across Armenia.