This issue of our journal is focused on the International Scientific Conference on Multicultural Education, which took place last December in Tetovo, North Macedonia. It was organized by the Tetovo based NGO LOJA Centre for Balkan Cooperation, in partnership with KURVE Wustrow Centre for Training and Networking in Nonviolent Action.
“Loja” means “game” in the Albanian language, and is derived from the corresponding verb, which means “to play”. However, it is not an ethnic Albanian organization. The composition of its staff and of its many volunteers, mostly youngsters, reflects the plurality of the country. Most importantly, as is it describes itself, this organization is “dedicated to the improvement of the cultural and social life as well as inter-ethnic relationships in Macedonia and the Balkan region”. It is an outstanding example of intercultural dialogue, of building bridges between the Others in an especially sensitive context. It is significant that, besides local youth, volunteers are coming from different countries of the world: the reputation of its interesting experiences has reached beyond the scope of our region. It cooperates with several important organizations and institutions of European countries.
The activity of LOJA Centre is very intensive, and it lies mainly in the fields of education and culture, consisting in arts festivals, exhibitions, dance, stage performance, cinema, film and video production, or computer courses, capacity building for staff members and partners, etc. Playing is an essential component of its modus operandi. John Dewey in the Balkans?
John Dewey, the great American philosopher of the first half of the twentieth century, conceived the revolutionary pedagogic doctrine according to which the combination of working and playing was crucial in the educational process. It was meant especially for schoolchildren. Now, in the case of the activity of LOJA centre, it needs the following two qualifications. In the first place, we are creative in as much as we preserve a certain heritage from childhood, which is creativity. Let us remind of something from a philosophical poet, the playwright Friedrich von Schiller: “the human being plays only when he is fully a human being, and he is fully a human being only when he plays”. Second, John Dewey conceived his theory in a quite different context. It did not address the problems of inter-ethnic relationships; the concept of multiculturality had not even appeared. LOJA centre, instead, applies playfulness in its endeavor to overcome stereotypes and promote intercultural dialogue.
The International Scientific Conference on Multicultural Education was one of the most relevant events organized last year by LOJA Centre for Balkan Cooperation. An additional merit is that it was successfully organized in these very difficult times of the pandemics. Scholars from different Balkan countries and from other European regions participated in it, either onsite or online. Being a scientific exchange of ideas, its modus operandi was not playfulness in action; however, while analysing problems of education, it was done by a scientific approach to that modality as well. John Dewey was implicitly present. A whole range of diversity of experiences where shared, from primary school education through higher education. In the presentations and in the subsequent debates, fundamental theoretical concepts were discussed: multiculturalism, interculturalism, culture as such, as a common treasure of the humanity, the relation between education and culture, etc. Besides, difficult questions were focused upon, as for example that of the necessity of multilingual education in ethnically plural landscapes such as that of North Macedonia and of other similar countries.
From the many contributions in the conference, we have selected some of them for the special dossier of this issue of our journal, in a shortened version. We are publishing also two of the keynote speeches in the section “The Gaze of the Other”. The full version of all the contributions will be published soon in a book that is being prepared by LOJA centre.