Blog & Comments

Education Under Covid-19: a children-led workshop

Martina and Victor from the Eurochild Children’s Council share their experiences of organising an online workshop

Together with three other members of the Eurochild Children’s Council (ECC), they planned, prepared and led a workshop titled ‘Education Under Covid-19’ during Eurochild’s online gathering of its members. Martina is part of the ‘Malta Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society’ and has been involved in various activities involving child-adult collaboration. Victor is part of the organisation ‘Children in Wales’. The workshop was attended by more than 30 experts from all ages from around Europe.

The workshop participants reflected on the effects of school closures on children.
Sioda, Irish member of the Eurochild Children’s Council said that some students have difficulties at studying at home. Antoine Farrugia, representing member organisation Don Bosco International, said: “Although there were many positive sides, the closure of schools deprived children in difficult situations from a safe space, outside of home, where they had physical, direct, unfiltered contact with caring adults”.

Among the findings of the discussions, was how COVID-19 has put a lot of stress on children and has increased inequalities (for example, access to adequate technology and a safe and supporting environment). However, remote education has also provided flexibility to many students, which had eased pressure and allowed them to work in a way more suitable to their needs.

Eurochild encourages active participation of children through its projects and events to ensure children’s right to be heard is understood in practice and in policies at local, national and European levels. The following is Martina’s and Victor’s reflections on their experience.

The idea of this workshop was initiated when I realised how the changes being made to the education system in my country were affecting the students and society. I decided to take this idea and present it to Eurochild as a potential area for consultation on Members’ Day. Fortunately, it was accepted and we could commence with planning.

My friends from the Eurochild Children’s Council all supported the idea and I was very lucky to have four of them (June, Milena, Eetu and Victor) help me with the planning, organising and facilitating. The process consisted of a couple of meetings before the actual workshop so that we had the adequate time to think about what we believe needs to be included. A meeting was also held to consult with the technical team to see how we can make this as interactive as possible. In fact, this was one of the challenges that we had to face but managed to overcome. This is because we were all aware that an online space can hold you back from fully participating, therefore it was our job to make sure everyone felt comfortable and ready to engage with us.

Once everything was planned out, only the finalisation of our presentation was left. We agreed to leave a portion of the workshop for the participants to discuss whatever topics they feel the need to talk about.
The workshop itself was incredibly valuable and provided us with great understanding on how to successfully lead and moderate a discussion. At the beginning, I felt that the participants were overwhelmed with the fact that this was a ‘child-led’ discussion, but it did not take long for them to accommodate themselves. The child speakers were all very confident and enthusiastic to be a part of it. This was a strength as during the short hesitant moments of silence at the start, it was the children that managed to get it back off the ground. The majority of contributors did not hesitate to say what was on their mind and share their opinion. One of the enriching comments at the end of the workshop was on how we conveyed a sense of hope to an individual participant and that was honestly very fulfilling because it showed me that hard work truly does pay off.

All this would not have been possible without the encouragement and assistance of the Eurochild staff, technical team and the diligent Eurochild Children’s Council. One of the key factors for designing a remarkable discussion is having a reassuring group of people ready to work with you to achieve the best results, and that is exactly what Eurochild provides.

By this time, I had participated in many online meetings and webinars, but I had not been too involved in organising them, and then there was the idea with the Education under COVID-19 workshop. Great idea, great team! We all worked as a real team, being so far from each other, but so close, with the same ideas and a lot of dedication and passion in everything! Eetu (from the Children’s Council) and I led the section titled ''What is next?'', where we discussed what will happen with education after COVID-19? I think we have talked too much about coronavirus; it's time to go further and learn from everything we went through, to be better prepared and to be full of confidence in the future.

Honestly, before the webinar I was scared. My first online webinar, in front of adults from different countries, with different cultures and languages. I thought that I would make mistakes and that I would stumble when I spoke. Potential things that would make the webinar unprofessional and could ruin all our work. I thought of my colleagues. I thought that I would make people believe that children should not be given the opportunity to support their ideas, their dreams! My biggest concern was that at an event about children and children's involvement in decisions, I would not be able to answer their questions; I would not be able to concentrate. It was a long evening, with many scenarios...

I was so wrong! Every person who was there were understanding, nice, and attentive. I really want to thank them for their participation and support! The discussions flowed; the ideas reflected on each other easily, it was a really productive session! I don't know when the 40 minutes passed. It didn't matter what country we came from or in what language we were thinking. It mattered that the ideas were the same! How many ideas and discussions there were about wellbeing, I think it could be a separate workshop made by children, about children and with the participation of adults! But the most important thing for me was that the discussions took place regardless of whether you are a child or an adult! Everyone was equal in what he said. I felt great!
I absolutely liked the webinar and thought it was very good! We, the members of the ECC, made the voice of children to be heard and putting children at the heart of Europe!

If you are thinking of organizing an online workshop, here are our tips:

•    Make a list of the main points you want to discuss
•    Consult people that are passionate or already working around the topic
      (Do not be afraid of receiving feedback during the workshop as well)
•    Clarify briefly (but clearly) why the topic is important
•    Be confident, assertive and friendly and adapt to changing circumstances
•    No matter how serious the topic is you have to keep it real, be honest and radiate positive energy
•    No beating around the bush, even during the workshop
•    It is not a speech: keep it as interactive as possible and make time for discussions
•    Remember to ask for feedback at the end.