Engaging and connecting young people in the face of COVID-19

Impact of virtual PONDER and PODIUM in young people during the lockdown.

Nora Maxhuni
UNICEF/2020/N. Maxhuni
28 July 2020

Everything begun in March 13th, 2020 the day when unprecedented challenges surrounded people in Kosovo posed by the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). The public institutions decided on a total lockdown as a protective measure against the virus spreading.  Since that day each of us is trying to get used to the  lifestyle changes that some call as  “the new normal”. Changing the workplace from the actual office to your kitchen at home or from school desks to your laptop at your own room may not be easy to everyone either physically or mentally. This situation has shaped the way people interact with each other and made us feel even more connected through digital media than ever before. In order to continue empowering adolescents and youth UNICEF’s solution was creating and enabling virtual PONDER: Critical Media Literacy and PODIUM: Advocacy for Change workshops aiming to help youngsters to connect and engage them while being lockdown at home.

PONDER as a way of connection

PONDER: Critical Media Literacy is a workshop that harnesses the potential of critical thinking to analyze and interpret the role of media in country context. Due to the unprecedented situation the intensive three-day workshop was held online, aiming to improve the critical thinking skills and ensure better knowledge around media literary of adolescents and youth. During the three-day workshop at home young participants concentrates on the core concepts of critical thinking and media literacy, and the ways of creation of diverse articles on Wikipedia.

Ardit Ajvazi, an 18-year-old from Gjilan, Kosovo who has taken part for the first time in virtual PONDER programme, says that it had a huge impact on him. “PONDER has influenced my decisions towards my future goals. Now, I can interpret and differentiate the fake news from the actual ones, and additionally it has taught and enhanced my decision-making process – things that are not taught at school. The positive energy spread out during the workshop and the efficient learning sessions did not allow us to think that we were actually working from our homes”.

Ardit captured after the COVID-19 restrictions released

Another successful participant of the Online PONDER workshop Ronita Bahtiri, a 19-year-old from Lipjan, Kosovo emphasizes that - the things learned in PONDER are very important and can be used in her everyday life”.

According to Ronita, every young person should have the opportunity to join this programme and she was lucky to be part of this workshop during the time of lockdown since there were not many activities to do. She was happy to learn new things at virtual PONDER “In my opinion the most challenging and exited part of the programme was translation of the article since I had no idea how to do it”.

Ronita captured after the COVID-19 restrictions released

Shaping the future critical thinkers and advocators

PODIUM: Advocacy for Change workshop is an initiative that aims to teach adolescents and youth from Kosovo* how to develop advocacy campaigns to advocate for the needs and rights of their communities. Together with their mentors it allows adolescents and youth to identify challenges in their communities, to use design thinking to implement solutions in the form of advocacy campaigns.

“My dream is to become a successful entrepreneur, and PODIUM taught me how to work in team and enhanced my communication skills which will beneficial for my future” says Selena Timotijevic, a 16-year-old from North Mitrovica. “Additionally, I was positively surprised how easily I have created new friendships through online PODIUM – it brings us more benefits than you can even imagine”.

Selena captured after the COVID-19 restrictions released.

Towards better future

Despite the challenging time we are facing, UNICEF Kosovo and its Innovations Lab will continue to equip adolescent and youth in Kosovo with the necessary 21st century skills, and empowering them to reach their full potential in life, to advocate for their needs and to become agents of change in their communities.