We must recognize and honour the teachers who shape a new generation of thoughtful young people

We must recognize and honour the teachers who shape a new generation of thoughtful young people

October 15, 2019


Siva Kumari is a Global Pluralism Award Jury member and Director General of the International Baccalaureate

Teachers have one of the hardest jobs on the planet. In a world where social-media echo chambers reverberate with hyper-partisan rhetoric and sensational voices, teachers are up against an overwhelming tsunami of information – drowning out time for deliberation and discussion to find the middle ground among widely different viewpoints.

Teachers have an opportunity to equip our students – our next wave of humanity – with the empathetic, critical and forward thinking needed to solve today’s local problems with a global mindset.

They must convey to their students that their actions and decisions, as tomorrow’s leaders, will not only affect the people around them – who look and think like them. Because of our interconnectedness, how students choose to invest their money, their time, their attention, how they consume, what they opt to say or not say will have a much wider impact.

Giving our young people a broader appreciation for the different viewpoints and values that exist around the world is crucial to a sustainable, prosperous and peaceful future for all. In the uncertain world that our young people will inhabit, this grounding in humanistic values will serve them ever more.

The Global Pluralism Award, offered by the Global Centre for Pluralism, was envisioned by the Aga Khan, chair of the centre’s board, as a way to celebrate pluralism in action. From among more than 500 applications from 74 countries, today we announced the winners. From the Balkans, Ghana and Myanmar, the winners are truly inspiring examples of educators and leaders shaping a new generation of thoughtful and open-minded young people.

In the Balkans, the challenge of introducing a more tolerant world view is complicated by teachers’ own biases. The “Learning History that is not yet History” project, one of the award winners, is run by history teachers from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, who grew up amid the conflicts of the 1990s in former Yugoslavia. They have likely been brought up by family members who malign certain groups and heard their politicians leverage identity politics.

Now, they are coming to terms with the past and teaching their students to embrace the differences in their communities and push back against ethno-nationalism. They are pioneering approaches to teaching about the 1990s wars that critically assess narratives of exclusion. So when their students take on the leadership roles in their society, divisions along ethnic, religious and social lines will not be perpetuated. Such work is closely aligned with the mission of the International Baccalaureate.

Helping students understand multiple perspectives is particularly difficult when the resources are not available. For instance, the vast majority of books for youth in Africa offer only westernized interpretations of the world. How do children come to appreciate the richness of African culture without access to stories from their own continent? Award winner Deborah Ahenkorah of Ghana wants to change this. She started a social enterprise, Golden Baobab, dedicated to bringing African stories, written by African authors, to African children.

When children see themselves represented in literature, they develop a deeper appreciation for their own culture and their place in it, which makes them more open to engaging with the diversity of people around them. Ms. Ahenkorah’s books are making their way into African schools, where children are finally able to access stories they can relate to and develop a more pluralistic view of their world.

When youth are raised with the ability to empathize and build connections across difference, young leaders such as Aung Kyaw Moe emerge. A Rohingya humanitarian, he founded the Center for Social Integrity in Myanmar, the third award winner. He believes that building sustainable peace in Myanmar will require shifting the next generation’s attitudes on diversity. His organization is training youth from conflict-affected regions with the peace building skills to resolve tensions and mediate conflicts.

The only project of its kind in Myanmar, it is often the first opportunity for youth to interact with people from other religions or ethnic groups. Teachers are leading the charge and youth are responding. Inspiring, entrepreneurial young leaders such as Ms. Ahenkorah and Mr. Kyaw Moe are embracing the challenge to build a society that is not just free from harm, but one that is vibrant and cohesive – not despite its diversity, but because of it.

The Global Pluralism Awards will be presented on November 20, 2019 at a ceremony in Ottawa.

Global Centre for Pluralism Announces the 2019 Global Pluralism Award Winners

Global Centre for Pluralism Announces the 2019 Global Pluralism Award Winners

October 15, 2019

Deborah Ahenkorah (Ghana), the Center for Social Integrity (Myanmar) and ‘Learning History That Is Not Yet History’ (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia) recognized as outstanding leaders promoting inclusion worldwide

Ottawa, Canada – October 15, 2019 – Today, the Global Centre for Pluralism announced the three winners of the 2019 Global Pluralism AwardDeborah Ahenkorah – a young Ghanaian social entrepreneur and book publisher bringing African children’s stories to life; the Center for Social Integrity – an organization giving youth from conflict-affected regions in Myanmar the skills and voice to be leaders for change amidst the many overlapping conflicts ongoing in the country; and ‘Learning History that is not yet History’ – a network of history educators and specialists in the Balkans pioneering a new approach to teaching the controversial history of conflict.

Meredith Preston McGhie, Secretary General of the Global Centre for Pluralism, said, “The Centre is honoured to be supporting the work of this year’s award winners. Their creative initiatives offer hope that negative trends toward exclusion and division can be reversed. The impact of their work is proof that we can build more richly diverse, peaceful and inclusive societies. These are examples we can all learn from.”

Joe Clark, former Prime Minister of Canada and Chair of the Award Jury, said, “The jury was inspired by the vital work of the award winners and the hundreds of impressive submissions received. They are all deeply committed to equipping the next generation of leaders with the knowledge and empathy to respond to the biggest challenges to pluralism today and in the future.”

The Global Pluralism Award celebrates pluralism in action. As a result of their sustained achievements to promote respect across differences, the Award winners are helping to build more inclusive societies, in which human diversity is valued and thrives.

Award winner, Deborah Ahenkorah said, “I feel incredibly blessed to receive this award and after a decade of work championing the importance of African literature for children, this honour highlights how much closer we are to the goal of placing African
children’s literature on a deserving global pedestal. I continue to look forward to that day when you can walk into a bookstore anywhere in the world and find incredible African stories available for all.”

Aung Kyaw Moe, Executive Director of the award winner, Center for Social Integrity, said, “This award recognizes that change can come from within, and that what started out as a small-scale local initiative, can become a strong and meaningful movement. It is a great achievement to be able to depict Rohingya people advocating for tolerance and pluralism hand-in-hand with other ethnic and religious peoples. I hope that one day, diversity in Myanmar will not only be accepted but celebrated.”

Bojana Dujkovic, representative of the award winner, the ‘Learning History that is not yet History’ team said, “It is very significant to our team to be receiving international recognition for work we have been developing with minimal support for over 16 years. Dealing with the sensitive history of the 1990s Yugoslav wars in our classrooms is very difficult for teachers. We have personal connections to this topic and many, including this team, have buried the topic for decades. It is now the moment to face the past responsibly and to teach about the 1990s conflicts, in order to build a future of mutual understanding, peace and reconciliation.”

This year, the Global Centre for Pluralism received over 500 applications spanning 74 countries for the 2019 Global Pluralism Awards—more than double the submissions to the inaugural awards in 2017. All nominees undergo a rigorous review and jury selection process.

The Global Centre for Pluralism, founded by His Highness the Aga Khan and the Government of Canada, will recognize the three winners and seven honourable mentions at an award ceremony on November 20, 2019 in Ottawa, Canada. The three winners will each be granted $CAN50,000 and in-kind support to advance their work in promoting pluralism.

About the Global Centre for Pluralism
Founded in Ottawa by His Highness the Aga Khan in partnership with the Government of Canada, the Global Centre for Pluralism is an independent, charitable organization. Inspired by Canada’s experience as a diverse and inclusive country, the Centre was created to advance positive responses to the challenge of living peacefully and productively together in diverse societies.

For further information, please contact:
Calina Ellwand
[email protected]
T: +1 613 688-0137