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20. 09. 2016.

Author: D. Bjelica

“Focusing the Inclusive Lens” Workshop: The Role of Journalists Is to Report about the Reality

The theme of a two-day workshop organized by the Journalists’ Association of Serbia and UNICEF in Serbia, which concluded on 16 September in Zlatibor, was how to achieve the better inclusion of children from vulnerable groups into the education system, through media reporting.

Twenty-seven journalists from the national, regional and local media outlets participated in the “Focusing the Inclusive Lens” workshop. The workshop was led by Ivana Miloradovic, an editor with the Radio Television of Serbia.

- Inclusive education is a strategic commitment of the Republic of Serbia. Educational institutions are required to enroll every child in school and provide him or her with support in order to successfully participate in classes, said Ljiljana Simic, an Associate for inclusive education, in the Sector for Development and Higher Education in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development.

She explained that a vulnerable group consists of children with disabilities, learning disabilities, children from rural areas, children from the poorest households, as well as those who do not speak the language in which classes are held. Inclusive education means adjusting the school to fit the child by applying different approaches and methods so that each child can be included in the education system.

- A pupil with exceptional capabilities also has the right to additional support in education and to an individual education plan, which represents the highest level of adjusting the school to the educational needs of children. 

 Sonja Paripovic, a teacher in the “Sonja Marinkovic” elementary school in Novi Sad, described her classroom to the journalists.

We do not have ideal conditions, but we are creating them. Instead of 500, we have 900 pupils, including 24 with disabilities. When a child comes to school, we adjust the conditions, says the teacher who has children with emotional disorders, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, but also gifted children in her classroom.

- When planning my work, I plan it in such a way so as to make it interesting for all the children, so that everyone is included and that everyone should learn what is needed. This is the practice that is focused on children.

Journalists also heard the experiences of Adi Sinani and Jelena Maric about the inclusive education of Roma children and persons with cerebral palsy.

- I am not a person with special needs. Is it a special need when you want education, when you want to be involved in extracurricular activities, to be on the theater stage?  In order to achieve complete socialization, school and books are not the only things that matter, but also extracurricular activities. Rhetoric is an activity that I have taken up, and it brings me many nice things. If we have to be singled out in any way, then you can say that we are the people who need special help and support, said Jelena who has cerebral palsy.

International documents and domestic legislation regulating inclusive education, journalistic standards, terminology and stereotypes, and the protection of the identity of children were also discussed at the workshop. 

- Ivana Miloradovic, who spent several years as a BBC editor, said there was much exploitation of children from the poorest households and their living conditions in Serbian media.

- If you are filming a child’s house, you should adhere to the artistic and not informative filming. This is done in order to prevent the identification of the child. If exposing the identity is allowed, then locating the filmed people should not be possible. One part of their identity is the house in which they live, the playground where they play. Journalists must take into account all these details.

She says there will be no true picture of the child without good preparation.

- A child should feel comfortable and at ease when filmed, we should not mount an invasion of the child’s physical and mental space.

Geoff Adams-Spink, who worked over twenty years as a BBC journalist and an editor specializing in reporting about persons with disabilities, was also one of the speakers at the workshop.

He took part in the journalism workshop via Skype and said that he experienced segregated education because at the age of five he was sent to an educational institution for persons with disabilities. 

- When I joined the BBC, I was my own greatest challenge. I never admitted I needed help and when I needed it, I did not ask for it, Geoff said and added there were two groups in the UK, one of them advocated for segregated education and the other believed that inclusive education was the right thing.

- About 80 percent of children with developmental disorders and disabilities are in inclusive education in the UK. Children with profound, multiple disorders are out of this system.  It took many years for this to happen. A large number of people pursued a campaign stressing that the segregation of children was bad for them, that special schools offered lower quality education, Geoff said and answered the journalist’s question by saying that it took the British society more than 15 years to adjust.

Geoff singled out the Ministry of Education as the most important institution for the introduction and success of inclusive education in the UK.

- The role of journalists is to report about the reality and not to mount campaigns, Geoff said.

The second day of the workshop was dedicated to practical work. Journalists drafted articles and filmed reports about inclusive education and they presented their work at the end of the workshop. 

At the closing discussion of the workshop, the journalists pointed out that work should be done with editors, too, who often requested from journalists the reports evoking sympathetic pity, but also that the media should focus more on the subjects discussed at the workshop and good practice examples.

“The conclusion of this seminar is perhaps that we should try to promote these topics in our media and through our own ideas that we should look for good examples because we have seen good examples here. We saw they existed after all. We should not be thinking in sensationalist terms because this is the way to change the things”, said Mirjana Cvoric, a journalist from Sabac, thus summarizing the impressions of the participants of the workshop.

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