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Looking Back on Learning About Justice

In preparation for Kosovo’s Constitution Day, celebrated April 9 in Kosovo, Nezir Sinani, Head of JSP Communication & Outreach Unit discussed the Learning About Justice Initiative with JSP Model Court Liaison, Florije Manaj-Zogaj, who led the initiative which began on International Children’s Day, June 1, 2010.

The Learning About Justice initiative was developed to improve citizen’s understanding of the justice system and increase awareness of the many improvements underway. The initiative is the first nationwide awareness initiative targeting primary school students, specifically second and third grade students.



Learning About Justice is a series of three coloring books, including “Learning about Law,” “Learning about Judges,” and “Learning about Responsibility.” Model Courts throughout Kosovo distributed nearly 20,000 coloring books in 9 different municipalities in 2010 and 2011.

As a result of the initiative, thousands of young students have a better understanding of the justice system and hundreds of teachers throughout Kosovo have incorporated the initiative as part of their classroom instruction for generations to come. Students and teachers have taken the initiative further by acting in mock trials and visiting their local courts to see how the system operates.

Interview

How did “Learning About Justice” begin?

FM: The Justice Support Program has been implementing a variety of initiatives to support the judiciary to open their doors to the public, to raise awareness and increase understanding. The Learning About Justice initiative is the first of its kind to target primary school audiences specifically, in order to provide educational opportunities where few have existed before.



The coloring booksá are based on the Law Day U.S.A., produced by the Administrative Office on the 19th Judicial Circuit in Waukegan, Illinois, and sponsored by the College of Lake County, Illinois, with illustration by Jim Brando, Brand Graphic Art, Gurnee, Illinois. Robert Zastany, Executive Director of the Circuit Court of Lake County in Illinois, suggested the coloring book initiative during a volunteer assignment in Kosovo in 2009. Mr. Zastany was working directly with the courts of Prizren and Gjakova at the time.

How was the project implemented?

FM: The coloring books were created in Kosovo through a competition of university art students. The selection committee was comprised of members of the U.S. court community who volunteered their time, including Mr. Robert Zastany ofá Illinois; Ms. Joan
Bishop, Director of Judicial Education in New Hampshire; and Ms. Theresa Scott, a Court Manager from Vermont. The panel selected the work of Kaltrine Alija, a student from Ferizaj studying Graphic Design and Marketing at the University of Pristina. Following the selection of the winner, we worked on the content of the books and printed them. Prior to their distribution, the JSP team and Model Courts met with schools to discuss the project. The meetings served as orientation meetings for the teachers and the Courts used them to establish relationships with the schools in their communities. The books were distributed beginning in June 1, 2010, International Children’s Day, when U.S. Ambassador Christopher Dell launched the initiative in Prizren.



What was the objective of the project?

FM: The aim of the project was multi-dimensional. Its first purpose was educational. We wanted young students to start learning about the justice system of our country, about judges, their responsibilities, and so on. The content of the books was meant for the second and third graders with lessons about paying attention to pedestrian crossing lines, to buckle up for safety, to, pay bills on time, and similar lessons that are important for all citizens to understand and the bases of our laws. The whole project was intended to be attractive for them, to provide incentives to learn, to raise awareness, change attitudes and promote understanding.
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How many schools were selected for distribution purposes?

FM: More than forty different schools were selected by all Model Courts (in 9 different municipalities), with some courts participating with many schools and others focusing on specific schools.



How many books were delivered?

FM: Nearly 20,000 books were delivered in the 40 schools to 6,000 students between 2010 and 2011. Thousands of crayons were donated by American and European citizens to support the initiative, and the donation of crayons were widely publicized on social networks including Facebook and LinkedIn.

What was the contribution of the Kosovo Model Courts to the project?

FM: The initiative was entirely driven by the courts so the approaches were varied in each court as each court made the initiative their own. All Model Courts supported the project and actively participated. They supported the distribution process first in the schools, and then launched “Open Court Days” for students to commemorate important dates for the justice system of Kosovo. Some of these days were: “European Justice Day”, marked on October 25th, “Kosovo’s Law day”, marked on January 16th, “Kosovo’s Constitution Day”, marked on April 9th. Judges and court staff are welcoming citizens of all ages to visit the courts on these dates, especially young people, to promote understanding of court activities and improvement initiatives that have been accomplished. The project achieved its overall objective, which was to establish connections between the Model Courts and schools and to foster civil education opportunities for young people. The project also served to strengthen the resolve of judges and court staff to open their doors to the public to signal a departure from the past.