Youth Against Corruption: An National Essay Contest (Georgia) Summary
The project Youth Versus Corruption consisted of a series of discussions culminating in a school essay contest for 14-15 year olds. Students were encouraged to develop and express their attitudes towards corruption and lawfulness, whilst raising their awareness on the issue through discussions with guest speakers and by writing creative essays. This empowering project captivated the interest of students by providing an opportunity for their opinions to be heard at national level, and by inviting famous people to attend discussions at schools. The project was carried out by Transparency International Georgia between September 2003 and February 2004 in 19 schools in six regions of Georgia1. TI-Georgia worked closely with the Georgian Ministry of Education’s Culture of Lawfulness Project.2
“During this period of injustice in the country ordinary citizens were hurt most. They longed for money to buy bread, and this is the reason why people started mass protests against the government. The government was unable to use force against its people. High officials had committed so many crimes that they could no longer redeem themselves. Each one of them was involved in corruption and everyone was aware of this fact. After the change of government all the corrupt people became very scared, some of them fled the country, others were arrested...“ Zaza Datukshvili (15) Recent research leaves little doubt that the difficult economic and political situation in Georgia can be attributed largely to high levels of corruption. The attitude of citizens to corruption has also been problematic. Although the negative impact of corruption on a larger scale is widely accepted, its effect on everyday life often remains obscured. Where it is recognised, people are generally pessimistic about the prospects of fighting corruption successfully. Consequently, there is an urgent need for awareness-raising campaigns that draw attention to the everyday effects of corruption and the effective means to curb 1 2 The regions included Tbilisi, Senaki, Telavi, Tianeti, Batumi, Gori Funded by the Open Society Georgia Foundation, OSGF, and the US Department of Justice
The project in numbers
19 schools and 589 students took part in this project; 758 questions were asked on the issues of corruption and legality at the meetings with guest-speakers; 411 essays were written during the contest. corruption. This increased awareness is vital for Georgia’s success and the mobilisation of young people is especially crucial in this regard. A course entitled ‘Culture of Legality’, focusing on law and corruption issues, was introduced and piloted in 19 schools by the Ministry of Education in 2002. It was financed by the American National Strategic Information Center. The ministry dubbed the project a success and integrated the course into the curriculum of grade 9 (14-15 year olds) for the following academic year (20032004). The course became obligatory for all 147 Tbilisi (Georgia’s capital city) schools as well as in those regional schools where the course was piloted. The ministry intends to bring this course to all Georgian schools over the next two years.
In conjunction with this new course, TI-Georgia carried out a youth awareness-raising campaign, which included a series of discussions, culminating in an essay contest. The project sought to sensitise young people to issues of corruption and legitimacy and to lend greater impact to the anti-corruption programmes already carried out in schools. The essay component in particular gave students the opportunity to express their ideas and to use knowledge gained from the discussions. The contest also sent a signal that society was interested in youth voices. After a selection process, the nine best essays were published in Georgia’s premiere newspaper, 24 Hours, and posted on...