On 15 November 2016, the UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) launched the global art contest "Opening Hearts and Minds to Refugees", in partnership with the Tolerance Center in Moscow.
The aim of the contest, aligned with ASPnet's current priority of "Global Citizenship Education", was to raise awareness among children and youth on the rights of, and respect for, refugees. Pre-primary, primary and secondary ASPnet's schools were mobilized to encourage teachers and students to reflect the vision and spontaneity of young women and men, girls and boys, to promote a culture of living together and international understanding that cherishes diversity.
The ten winners from the aforementioned education categories were selected by a jury from a global application pool. The jury likewise presented four special mentions to additional works for the strong messages they expressed in engaging with the theme.
Thanks to the strong support and funding of the Tolerance Centre, the first, second and third prize winning schools received USD 2 000, 1 500 and 1 000 respectively, during the Prize Ceremony held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on 6 July 2017.
Bearing in mind the daily challenges encountered by refugees trying to settle in a new country, the artworks of these students demonstrate hope for a common and inclusive future in which no one is left behind.
By taking part in this contest, teachers, students, parents and members of the school community demonstrated that empathy is a transgenerational reaction.
Education allows youth to develop their sense of altruism. Social inclusion and the respect for cultures and peoples are core values that - if encouraged in the early stages of life - can empower and inspire future generations to be more empathetic, understanding and ultimately tolerant.
We asked the winning schools to describe to us the various processes used in the classroom to conceive their artwork. All the works of art are the result of a collective reflection and design. As a first step, teachers and their students discussed in class on such themes as exile and solidarity. Some have carried out simulation games while others have tried to adopt the point of view of refugees.
Nursery school and Primary school students used various recyclable materials to make their drawings and collages, such as newspapers or wool reel. In secondary school, several videos mix up various forms of art such as music, rap, dance or theater. Some texts, finally, are written in original forms such as a series of tweets for example.