Aso Folk High School is a Swedish – Kurdish school which provides Kurdish students in Sulaymaniyah with the opportunity to get a secondary school degree. The school is free for charge and is financed by the Kurdish educational authorities.
A Swedish non-governmental organisation called Tornseglarna is supporting the school. The motivation came from the members of Tornseglarna, who had a wide experience in working with folk high schools in Sweden. They wanted to give Kurdish students an alternative school choice, based on a Swedish pedagogical framework. This framework emphatises critical thinking, reflection and an open relation with the teachers creates the basis for learning.
A challenging methodology
The NCPD got to know the school three years ago. The relation developed into cooperation aiming to create a peace education program for students and teachers in January 2013.
ASO wanted to offer their students and teachers a workshop about communication, conflict resolution and dialogue. This workshop was created as part of a project week , where students and teachers was excused from their customary classes. During the week the students were introduced to a new workshop methodology. As a result this created challenging situations for several students as they struggled to find their new role.
Using dialogue as a tool for better understanding
As the days went by the students got more comfortable. They felt free to apply themselves into the different exercises, dialogues and group talks. It was a pleasure to see how they developed their listening skills, mapped their own conflicts, discussed different ways of facing a conflict and used dialogue as a tool for obtaining better understanding.
Being a workshop facilitator at ASO is a wonderful way of getting known to the Iraqi Kurdish culture, the social and political challenges and a different way of living.
Teaching for the future
The ASO school has a great mixture of students. Some of them has been living in the diaspora for a long time, returning now with their parents and trying to find their place. Others comes from different social backgrounds or/and has dropped out from ordinary school. In ASO they get used to a way of learning that allows themto be part of a democratic environment where their voice can make a difference, which is different from the one usual in ordinary Iraqi schools.
A picture of the current Iraqi Kurdistan
Iraq is a rich nation with a lot of human resources, a fast infra-structural development. It has an old fashioned hierarchical society with strong and sometimes destructive family boundaries, but also a young, educated generation. This new generation will claim their rights, their space , and most of all their freedom and influence. I am grateful to be given the opportunity to contribute to the great work of the ASO folk high school as I am sure that their way of teaching prepares the youth for future challenges.