English Teachers welcomed to the UN in Vienna to attend workshop about human rights and sustainable development education
As people flee the war Ukraine in their millions, the role of human rights and sustainable development in education looms larger than ever. Against this backdrop, the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna, in cooperation with the University College of Teacher Education in Vienna (PH Wien), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Office in Austria welcomed English teachers to the Vienna International Centre on 15 March for a special workshop. Interested teachers, primarily from secondary schools, participated in a seminar introducing the work of United Nations, human rights, and areas of sustainable development that can be implemented in educational programmes. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was our first in-person workshop.
UNIS Vienna Director Martin Nesirky thanked the teachers for coming to the workshop, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic has made their work much harder and other priorities may have arisen. He emphasized the fundamental role that teachers provide to pupils in creating safe spaces and structures in which to learn, an especially important task considering the pandemic but also, more recently, the war in Ukraine and crises in other parts of the world. The Sustainable Development Goals can contribute to bringing peace and stability and teachers have an important role as they can bring the SDGs into the classroom.
Participating teachers took part in a comprehensive tour of the United Nations led by the Visitor Service Vienna. The tour focused on how to inspire pupils to engage with the UN. It also previewed what school groups could see and do in possible forthcoming tours, including activities related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Visitors Service of the United Nations gave a presentation on “Visiting the UN in Vienna” which gave teachers further insights into possible outside-the-classroom activities that the UN can provide to schools, covering all age groups. In addition, UNIS Vienna gave advice on how to include the SDGs in their classroom teaching.
UNCHR Austria gave an introduction on refugee protection. The topic was considered extremely timely given the influx of refugees from Ukraine to other European countries, including Austria. Teachers shared their experiences of teaching children with a refugee background. One teacher reflected on the reality of teaching refugees, saying, “We have to teach those who have been through the serious trauma of having to flee their home.” The workshop also provided a space to exchange ideas on how to cope with the possible upcoming challenges in their profession that the Ukrainian refugee crisis might bring to their classrooms.