Back at Utøya

“We have learned about democracy, equality and how to express your own opinions in a way that others understand, and to stand for your own opinions, and not do the same as everyone else” a student participating in Learning Democracy at Utøya, 10-12 May 2021, said. Due to the pandemic training activities have been reduced so far this year, but now it is possible to organize trainings for students from the local region.

“Every group of students and teachers participating in Learning Democracy at Utøya are different. Our program of activities for the three-day-workshops for Lower Secondary schools are predominantly the same, but the topics, interest and ideas that the students bring into the discussions and activities varies with what they find to be most relevant”, Ingrid Aspelund, head of the EWC Youth Section.

10-12 May students and teachers from local schools participated in a three day workshop at the Learning Centre at Utøya. The most important democratic issue that was highlighted by the students during the workshop was to have the courage to take stand and express your own opinions. During the three days at Utøya, the students explored different democratic dilemmas, reflecting on their own viewpoint while also considering other’s opinions.

To be 14 years old and take a stand for what you believe in, for instance a human rights issue, might be scary. However, some students pointed out that meeting others who were actively engaged contributed to their confidence in that they also could express their opinions. For instance, one student highlighted that listening to the witnesses, who survived the terror attacks 22 July, was inspiring, since they were both politically active, participating in decision making processes and contributing to change.

Research on young people’s political efficacy shows that young people’s belief in their abilities and possibilities to participate in the democracy does not only get triggered by their own experiences with participation, but could also be developed by observing other young people who are represented in decision making processes and who participate in the democracy.

“We are looking forward to contributing to more learning and participation when welcoming more students and young people to Learning Democracy at Utøya!,” Aspelund says.

Apply here (Lower Secondary Schools in Norway)