UNICEF Albania in collaboration with ICTSlab introduced PONDER, a non-formal education initiative aiming to foster among children and youths of age 14–21 years the ability for critical-based thinking, following an innovative curriculum applied interactively.
The young people who participated in the programme learned critical thinking, critical media literacy, and gained understanding and the ability to challenge subjective information. They were also provided with internship opportunities at well-known media companies in Albania.
For Ema Meçaj, a Grade 2 student from Sami Frashëri High School in Tirana, participation in PONDER has improved her skills in many respects. “The skills I learned through this programme have helped me improve my writing skills, develop critical thinking and raise my voice with regard to youth decision making and empowerment” she said.
Ema had previously committed herself to several activities aimed at increasing awareness of the protection and respect for children’s rights, and PONDER enabled her to raise her voice about the many challenges that her generation faces in every part of Albania.
“Our schools produce academically prepared students, but not necessarily skilled professionals, capable of finding themselves a place in the labour market and in life in general,” Ema believes. She hopes this situation will change through involving young people in creative and innovative events, in decision making, and help them raise their voice and express themselves in family, school and society.
Having participated in PONDER, Ema was accepted for an internship at Top Channel, which she considers an alternative to school. “During the internship, I practised what I already knew from my experience and what I learned in PONDER. Now I am a young journalist thanks to the support of UNICEF and ICTSlab.” Working for the programme ‘Wake-Up’, Ema had the opportunity to experience news first-hand and verify it with impartiality and integrity.
A new application developed by PONDER is now available that enables true facts to be distinguished from false information. In this way, young people will be trained to think critically when facing information and messages on social media, and also in traditional media.