Date: 30-03-2024

ISSA conducts "Embracing Diversity" training for early childhood professionals from Ukraine

ISSA conducts "Embracing Diversity" training for early childhood professionals from Ukraine 

From the 19th to the 22nd of March 2024, the International Step by Step Association hosted an in-person Embracing Diversity training in Budapest for ISSA Member organization, the Ukrainian Step by Step Foundation. The training was attended by a cohort of 12 experienced pre- and in-service trainers from universities and training institutes who work with and were selected by the Ukrainian Step by Step Foundation. These trainers will roll out their learnings from the training in the work they do with other early childhood practitioners. 

Structure of the training 

This in-person training aims to address exclusion and discrimination issues in early childhood settings. It is based on two programs developed by ISSA, which ISSA has been implementing since 2022:  

  • Embracing Diversity - Creating Equitable Societies Through Personal Transformation”for adults
  • “Educating for Diversity – Classroom Activities” for adults working with children

The sessions build knowledge, understanding, and sensitivity to mechanisms that perpetuate and maintain systems of discrimination and oppression in educational institutions and society in general.  

Through the training, ISSA aims to create conditions which foster personal, professional, and institutional transformations to nurture every child’s sense of self and social identities. Alongside this, the training supports adults and children to engage in comfortable, empathetic interactions in contexts of diversity, and to think critically about their own biases.  

The training was delivered by experienced trainers and co-authors of ISSA’s Embracing Diversity programs, Jelena Vranjesevic, Professor of developmental psychology and psychology of education at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, and Zorica Trikic, Senior Program Manager at ISSA. 

Below, master trainer, Zorica Trikic reflects on the importance and sensitive nature of the training

"Working with professionals and trainers from Ukraine on the topic of embracing diversity was inspiring and rewarding. As trainers, we learned so much from them, and we did our best to do to provide them with tools, skills and knowledge that will help them navigate the extremely difficult times they are living in. Living through war triggers a lot of unpleasant feelings such as anger, hate, desperation and helplessness and many questions which are difficult to answer. During the training we created a safe and nurturing space where participants had an opportunity to voice their feelings and worries without being afraid that they will be judged or excluded. 

Through the training activities they were able to reflect on their own biases, how they influence children and how they contribute to the perpetuation of discrimination and exclusion of those who are different. They could learn from each other, exchange with colleagues, ask tough questions, share their pain and sadness, comfort and encourage each other. The training provided a space to address the challenges they are facing on daily basis such as the integration of internally displaced children and parents, especially those who do not speak fluent Ukrainian. Through transformative dialogue they could, with our support, explore the question of identity, what it means to be Ukrainian, what values define loving one’s own country and compatriots. 

The content and structure of the training reminded participants that they are much more than the labels they currently carry. They are more than victims of the war or, in certain cases, internally displaced persons. They are above all brave, resourceful, capable and selflessness professionals with the courage and willingness to nurture and teach children how to be empathetic, how to embrace otherness and treat people in a respectful and inclusive manner. 

Engaging in the training on embracing diversity requires a certain strength and readiness to think outside the box, to stand up and speak out on behalf of those who are discriminated or excluded, to demonstrate diverse ways of understanding the world and being in balance with oneself and others. This is a very demanding task, even in times of peace, not to mention during war. This illustrates why our participants in the training are worthy of deep respect, both on a personal and professional level.

For me the most important added value of this training in Budapest is that we managed to create a learning community of professionals who will disseminate the training content in Ukraine and help educators to find strength to move forward as an inclusive community with potential to recover and heal."

This training was conducted with support from the Minderoo Foundation.