Students finally back at Utøya!

Due to national regulations on Covid-19 infection control, The European Wergeland Centre had to postpone all education activities at Utøya island this spring. As Norwegian society is gradually reopening and restrictions are being lifted, we can finally welcome students and teachers at Utøya again.

Students arriving at Utøya
Students arriving at Utøya

After a long period of closed schools and home-schooling through digital platforms and tools, Norwegian schools reopened with infection control measures in mid-May. The Norwegian health authorities still recommends that people keep 1-meter distance from each other. However, in the beginning of June, this 1-meter recommendation was lifted for students within the same class in school.

“This allowed us to welcome students from two secondary schools located close to Utøya, Hole ungdomsskole and Haugsbygd ungdomsskole, for day visits to Utøya”, Inga Riseth, EWC advisor, said.

The students were guided around the island, learning about its history as a meeting place for youth, about the terror attacks 22. July 2011 and about the process of returning to the island after 2011. The visit ended with an activity on how to react to hate speech, and with an activity where the students explored their role as active citizens and their role in promoting a democratic culture.

In this last activity, several of the students raised the importance of following national recommendations for infection control. Others raised the importance of responding to racism, perhaps as a response to the widespread demonstrations and debates that are currently ongoing in several countries. This is an example of how education for democratic citizenship allows issues that are important in the public debate to become part of the conversation in the classroom. Moreover, Utøya is a meaningful place to lift these issues, as the island bears witness of young people’s response to crisis and injustice.

“We now look forward to welcome even more Norwegian secondary students to Utøya after the summer holiday, both for day visits and for three-day trainings. At the same time, we are crossing our fingers, hoping that it is not too long until we can host an international training at Utøya again”, Riseth said.