“We could feel the enthusiasm in the air”.

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World Teachers’ Day is held annually on 5 October to celebrate all teachers around the globe.

The day celebrates the anniversary of the adoption of UNESCO’s Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers, which sets standards for teachers’ rights and responsibilities.

It is a day to celebrate how teachers are changing education, but it is also a day to rethink their future and reflect on the support they need.

In this framework the EPEA branches in Flanders – KLASBAK and the Netherlands organised the First Flemish-Dutch Study Day Learning in Detention for education Professionals in Prison. EPALE, the Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe, made the meeting possible by providing the logistics and funding for the meeting. 100 prison educators from Flanders and the Netherlands met in Brussel at the Herman Teirlinckgebouw. Hopefully, there will be a lot more
meetings to come. Although the two countries have very different prison systems, the same language and the desire to make prisons a better place made the meeting successful.

Flanders and the Netherlands had already organised webinars together, but this was our first face-to-face meeting. We tend to underestimate the therapeutic and multiplying effects of having so much knowledge under one roof in such a technified environment but the truth is that you could feel the enthusiasm in the air.

The day began with a welcome by Liesbeth De Donder, chair of Klasbak, followed by a video speech by EPEA chair Thomas Wüthrich on the European vision of education in prisons. An overview of prison education systems in both countries was followed by a discussion with prison teachers about the challenges they face.

After that, you were given the choice of taking part in two out of four workshops. The themes were: Cultural activities in prison, Orthopedagogical challenges in prison, Literacy and digital skills, and Bridge between prison and society. While I could give more details about each guest, space is limited, and it would not be fair to their quality presentations. They were moments of learning and exchanging ideas, truly motivating and inspiring.

There was also time for one of the things we teachers love most: chatting and sharing experiences, or as they say nowadays, networking.

A second workshop followed by a plenary session allowed us to hear our liaison person Lut Lippeveld’s impressions of the EPEA Conference in Tønsberg. What I heard was reassuring, many positive impressions and encouraging messages about the quality of the speakers and the quality of the prison visits. Colleagues of the Steering Committee, we did a good job!

EPEA NL chair Frans Lemmers presented his new European project, European Dissemination Platform for Education in Prison. Follow this project and help create a database of projects at the European level. We can’t wait to see it!

Our highlight was when Lievens (not his real name), a former inmate in a Belgian prison, spoke about the importance of education in prison and the need for paradigm shifts in our society. A better reintegration policy and more investments are needed. Have you heard of this before? We ended with a panel discussion with Wim Ipers, the education coordinator of the prison of Bruges, the coordinator of De Rode Antraciet, Dorien Brosens, a doctor and researcher at VUB, and the chair of EPEA NL. They all expressed their dreams for the prison school of the future. Wim put the focus on 2030. We look forward to hearing their conclusions at the EPEA Conference in 2031. Once again, we can’t wait! (see also Wim’s article in the Snippets)

On behalf of the EPEA I, Ana Ferrando, Western Representative, would like to thank all the organisers, speakers, and volunteers who contributed their time and efforts.