Tatjana Popovic

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What are contexts and issues that you work on? How are you using peace education to address these issues? What keeps you going?

In the Western Balkans (WB) ethnic divisions, which are a legacy of the wars from the 1990s, are still present within countries and local communities. I organize teacher trainings on School Mediation and Prevention of Violence, cooperate with the ministries of education in Serbia and in WB, create textbooks. Peace Education (PE) programmes gather teachers, students, parents, local authorities in an effort to create safe environments. Working as a facilitator of the long-term multi-ethnic dialogue and reconciliation processes taught me that these processes take time, constant investment in peacebuilding, and building resilience of local populations. My motivation comes from the responsibility to contribute to my society. Small, significant victories occur when teachers feel happy about finding new solutions to the old conflicts; when students feel empowered with mediation skills and proud to be at service to friends; and when decision-makers decide to support PE programs because they bear excellent results, such as lower number of cases of violent behavior in schools.

What has been your most meaningful or noteworthy moment in your peace education career?

The most striking moment for me was when Serbian and Albanian students from several primary and secondary schools organised a joint performance to present their work in mediation clubs. The performance was done in front of an audience including parents, teachers, Norwegian colleagues and local authorities. This work has been implemented by Nansen Dialogue Centre, in which my colleagues and I have been working on the Schools Cooperation Project for 7 years in South Serbia.

How and why did you start working in peace education?

I started working on inter-ethnic dialogue and cross-border cooperation immediately after the wars. It was important for me to understand how to invest in re-establishing relationships and normalizing life in the whole region. As a teacher, I acquired new skills and knowledge which I was happy to adapt to our circumstances, share with the local population and invest in peace-building jointly.