10.1 General context
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Before the establishment of the first Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, Slovakia was part of Hungary. Some authors cite a more significant youth work development period around 1868, when the „self-awareness” movement aroused. This was in the time off Magyarization process, an assimilation process by which Slovaks were meant to adopt the Hungarian culture and language either voluntarily or due to social pressure. This „self-awareness” and revival movement was reflected in the activities of literary associations, student meetings, charities etc. The largest student organization at that time was the Slovak Youth Union. There were also student self-learning associations that were run by students’ councils and were created under the supervision of teachers.
In 1918, when the first Czechoslovakia was formed, there was a significant growth of civic association activities and non-profit organizations, most of which operated on voluntary basis. This period was also marked by the development of innovative social policy directed at improving the social conditions of the Czechoslovaks. The newly formed department in the Ministry of Education and National Enlightenment provided new opportunities for the youth work development. At this time, youth work was performed mainly by educational and self-study clubs through regular student meetings, tea parties and other activities. Schools supported sports activities outside of school.
The most famous youth organizations at that time were Český sokol, Československý orol and the Scout union. The first scout unit in Slovakia was founded in 1913. In 1920 the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) and in 1923 the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) Czechoslovak branches were founded. One of the most important characteristics of this associations is that their approach to youth work was complex and it included both social work and social pedagogy.
In 1933 democratic associations and societies were abolished due to Hitler coming to power. Only approved organizations could continue with their activities. Jews and Czechs were not allowed to participate in the federal activities. The most influential organizations of this period were the Hlinka’s Guard and Hlinka’s Youth, founded by the monopoly Hlinka’s Slovak People’s Party. This organizations brought together young people aged 6 to 20 years, separately boys and separately girls. Their mission was to educate the patriots of the state and the nation in accordance with Christian principles. The structure and activities essentially copied the activities of the Hitler Youth in Germany empire. For some time, young boys' membership was even compulsory. Even though it was economically, politically, and socially affected by the situation, youth work continued in content, form, and method as before 1933.
In 1945, after the Second World War, communist activists began to establish the first pioneer groups after the Soviet model Komsomol. In 1949 the Czechoslovak Youth Union (ČSM) was founded. It united four national youth unions: Czech, Slovak, German and Polish. The union was part of the National Front. Youth work had been presented as an “objective necessity of socialistic society”.
From 1953 Houses of Pioneers and Young People, set up by the Communist party (Domy pionierov a mládeže) began to spring up in Czechoslovakia. In 1968, the Czechoslovak Youth Union was replaced by the Union of Socialist Youth (Socialistický zväz mládeže – SZM). Obligatory membership in socialistic youth and children’s organizations ceased only after the “velvet” revolution of 1989.
The changes that occurred after the „velvet” revolution in 1989 and the establishment of an independent Slovak Republic in 1993, brought many social and political changes. Some initial youth organizations, that were dissolved during the Second World War were now re-established (for example YMCA, Slovak Scouting, and the Salesians). New youth organizations were also formed at this period. For example, the Youth Council of Slovakia (RmS) has been formed in 1990. Its initial role was to bring together organizations working with youth in Slovak Republic and to represent the member organizations in the context of state policy towards youth. It was initially established as a civic association. Since 1999, RmS is an umbrella organization of children and youth organizations in Slovakia. Its main role is to support the member organizations through advocacy, training, providing networking and supporting their needs so they can carry out their activities. Nowadays RmS also conducts research and surveys focusing on youth and youth work, for example in November 2018 (before the elections to the National Council of the Slovak Republic) they conducted a survey on the electoral preferences of first-time voters. Besides other activities, RmS is also a coordinator of National Working Group for Structured Dialogue with Youth. RmS is a member of European Youth Forum.
Documents defining state policy towards youth post revolution:
- Principles of State policy towards Children and Youth (1992, updated in 2000);
- Concept of State Policy in Relation to Children and Youth until (2007);
- Key Areas and Action Plans of State Policy towards Children and Youth in the Slovak; Republic for the years 2008-2013;
- the Strategy of the Slovak Republic for Youth for the years 2014-2020;
- the Strategy of the Slovak Republic for Youth for the years 2021-2028.
IUVENTA – Slovak Youth Institute (hereinafter IUVENTA)
Previously the Central House of Pioneers and Youth of Klement Gottwald. After the revolution, IUVENTA's main activities were the support of clubs in Houses of Children and Youth/Leisure-Time Centres and traditional competitions in school subjects (Olympiads). IUVENTA later became the administrator of the first projects foreshadowing wider co-operation in Europe, also during the European Union accession and programmes membership period (CEEPUS, Youth for Europe, Youth in Action, YOUTH and the present Erasmus+). Since 2000, IUVENTA is an institution, directly managed by the MESRS. IUVENTA's main activities are educational activities aimed at youth and youth workers, preparing background materials for official documents in the field of youth and youth work, research and other activities aimed at supporting youth work. IUVENTA implemented two national projects in the field of youth work. IUVENTA is currently the national correspondent for the YouthWiki and the coordinator of the European Year of Youth 2022 (EYY2022) for Slovakia.
The main youth work providers in Slovak Republic are nowadays children and youth associations (non-governmental organizations), leisure-time centres/youth clubs (belonging to the official state formal education system) and non-formal groups of young people (working mostly on short-term projects).
National definition or understanding of Youth Work
Act No. 282/2008 on Support of Youth Work defines youth work as mainly an educational activity, a societal activity, an informational activity or an advisory activity for youth, young leaders, youth leaders and youth workers. The main goal of youth work is to ensure personal, professional, and social development of target groups through non-formal education.
Non-formal education in the field of youth work is further education of youth, young leaders, youth leaders and youth workers organized by educational facilities with the aim of gaining new knowledge, practical experience and skills needed for youth work, which enables its participants to complete, broaden and deepen their reached acquirements.
The important component of youth work is youth participation. It is an active involvement of youth in the process of planning, decision-making and developing project and events within the frame of social and economic life.