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 broad experience from working in folk high schools in Sweden.
They wanted to give Kurdish students an alternative school choice, based on a Swedish pedagogical framework, where critical thinking, reflection and an open relation with the teachers creates the basis for learning.
A challenging methodology
The Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue get to know the school three years ago. The relation developed into cooperation, with the goal of creating a peace education program for students and teachers emerging in the second week of January 2013.
ASO wanted to offer their students and teachers a workshop about communication, conflict resolution and dialogue. This workshop was part of a project week , where students and teachers was being taken out of their usual teaching obligations.
During the week, the students were introduced to a workshop methodology, different from what they were used to. That created some challenging situations for several students, who struggled to find their role in an unknown context.
As the days went by, they got more comfortable and free to use 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 tried to use 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 different from the one usual in ordinary Iraqi schools. They learn to be part of a democratic environment where their voice can make a difference.
These students showed me one picture of the current Iraqi Kurdistan:
A rich nation with a lot of human resources, a fast infra-structural development, an old fashioned hierarchical society with strong and sometimes destructive family boundaries and a young educated generation who will claim their rights, their space , their freedom and influence. I am thankful to be given the opportunity to contribute to the great work of the ASO folk high school, because I am sure that their way of teaching prepares the youth for future challenges.