(Skopje, 15 May 2023) – The President of North Macedonia, Mr. Stevo Pendarovski, visited State School for Rehabilitation of Children and Youth with Visual Impairments “Dimitar Vlahov” (DURDMOV) in Skopje, together with the ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of North Macedonia, H.E. David Geer and ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Republic of North Macedonia H.E. Petra Drexler, during the exchange with the partner school from Sarajevo “Centre for Blind and Visually Impaired Children and Youth”.
The exchange is organised under Superschools, a project of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), that supports schools from the Western Balkan in promoting intercultural learning, dialogue and peacebuilding. The project is co-financed by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and jointly implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and RYCO.
President Pendarovski visited the school in order to support inclusiveness and solidarity through respect and acceptance of diversity.
“There is no more relevant measure of the character of a society than the attitude toward its most vulnerable members. Therefore, competent institutions and civil society organizations should systematically work on raising social awareness to completely abolish all forms of discrimination against blind people. Advancing their rights should be our joint priority because a society in which there is room for everyone has more chances of success,” said the president of North Macedonia.
The EU ambassador H.E. David Geer congratulated RYCO for organizing the project for the second year in a row, not only continuing to bring together young people from the Western Balkans and helping them to repair and build a better future, but also going one step further promoting inclusion.
“This project is about raising awareness of the need to create conditions adapted to everyone’s specific needs and emphasising special talents, rather than focusing on disabilities and making the most of their talent for the benefit of them all,” said the EU ambassador.
The German ambassador Petra Drexler emphasised that Germany puts great importance on regional cooperation, that goes beyond politics.
“The political exchange would never be complete without cultural exchange and real-life encounters between young people getting engaged in an exchange program. The contracts you have during exchange may turn into relationships and evolve into friendships. Friendships are based on understanding, mutual respect, and trust. And this is what make these exchanges so important for your future and well-being, but also for the future and wellbeing of your communities and societies,” said ambassador Drexler.
Respected guests and students were greeted by Secretary General of RYCO Albert Hani, who specially addressed students from Bosnia and Herzegovina, wishing them a warm welcome to Skopje.
“The RYCO is and will be the organization that prioritises inclusivity, which means better and more opportunities for all of you. I’m certain that you need to seize all the opportunities from RYCO, the EU and the German Government. We will always be your friends and will strive to create better opportunities for all of you,” said Hani.
The exchange between schools from Skopje and Sarajevo aims to facilitate the inclusion of visually impaired students in the Western Balkans through a series of activities in music, sport, and art specially tailored to their needs. The director of DURDMOV Boban Spasencovski said that with projects like Superschools, students and teachers can follow the trends, providing the schools with EU perspective, more experience and education.
“I want to thank you all that you did not forget our schools and students with special educational needs because this is the only way we can together be an inclusive society,” he said.
Alongside the official greetings, a panel discussion on “Inclusion and Opportunities for Youth with Visual Impairments in the Western Balkans“ was organised as a space for youngsters to share their perspectives and thoughts on such an important topic. One of the students representing the school from Sarajevo, Adna Orascanin, expressed the concerns she had before the exchange started.
“We are coming from different religions and we speak different languages. Firstly, I thought this is going to be an obstacle for us to connect, but after the first 10 minutes that I spent with my peers from Skopje, I saw that we are the same young people with the same dreams and problems. I realised that we can share experience and common practices and apply them to our local communities”
Getting closer to the end of the visit, event participants had the opportunity to enjoy a delightful musical performance executed by the superstudents of the exchange which extended the diversity through art and music.
Since 2021, the RYCO has been implementing the high school exchange program in the Western Balkans under the name of Superschools. Selected schools have the chance to implement school-to-school exchanges in their local communities as well as to participate in the program’s activities dedicated to their capacity building, networking, and cooperation. The program is co-financed by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) together with the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO).
The Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) is the intergovernmental organization dealing with peacebuilding, reconciliation, and cooperation among youth in the Western Balkans through youth exchange programs. RYCO is working for and with the youth on creating a better region by providing new, interesting, and valuable opportunities to young people, who are eager to bring positive change, explore and improve, by meeting peers from the region.