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Darja Kušar, a Community Story from Slovenia

"Learning and even more so the learning of learning is accepting what exists, identifying potential shortcomings, correcting, improving, carrying it forward in the direction of lifelong learning. We will have to wake up from the virtual world and denial of feelings, numbness and apathy, and start living again."

Darja Kušar.

After studying philosophy and theology in Ljubljana, I moved from Primorska to the Styria region with my family. After a year and a half of gaining work experience in the public sector, I settled at the Adult education Centre Ljudska univerza Slovenska Bistrica, where I have been working for 15 years with various target groups and individuals looking to gain further knowledge for their profession or personal development. The Adult Education Centre, which is a local andragogical centre, tailors all its programmes to the wishes and needs of individuals in search of new knowledge while taking into account the development guidelines. I always take care of my development in both the professional and personal fields.

I found out about EPALE at work because my manager is the member of EPALE expert group at NSS Slovenia. I have been using the platform almost from the beginning as part of my work for presentation of our successful projects. In the context of this year's special circumstances and the pandemic, I have also used the platform to share my personal experience about the adjustments for working from home and simultaneous coordination of other family and leisure activities.

The restriction of movement was a challenge and an opportunity for experiential learning for all!

On 13th March, on a Friday, we went home armed with all the supplies and materials that make it possible to work from home. Throughout the weekend, we were collecting and accumulating information from various sources about the spread of the virus and data in our country and across the world. On Monday, everyone arranged a place at home to work until the measures were lifted. We were saved from getting up (too) early and rushing to work without a quiet breakfast, maybe even traffic pressure at the beginning and the end of the working day and much more, however... we had to reorganise, properly set up our working times, family, parental, leisure and other obligations.

Reconciling the desires and needs of all the constantly present members of the household is complex and requires an abundance of flexibility and interpersonal tolerance.

No one can force you to learn except life itself. Life, this time the smallest virus, was the (violent) thing which, without exception, led us all along a path of learning. If we understand learning as a process of changing behaviour based on new information and experience, and not just as a process whereby we obtain information, then by learning we change ourselves, enrich our experience and knowledge, and thus change our personality. We took this opportunity to learn, each in his or her own way, to get to know each other all over again, to strengthen our relationships. Throughout the period, we experienced both better coordination as well as the worse moments when we disagreed in both time and in space. During this period, the transmission of individual verified and sometimes unverified information and comments on social networks multiplied beyond what was manageable.

If you weren’t connected at all times, you weren’t up to date at all anymore, even though you didn’t really miss anything, as social media became a place to release the negative energy accumulating in dissatisfied individuals. The situation was new to everyone, including those who were not locked up in their homes and those who had to decide how we would march through it.

However, for many people, social networks are also an opportunity to present themselves and promote their activity in a more prime time. They represent an opportunity to rekindle memories by posting old photos, maintaining, reviving and establishing new contacts and friendships in a different way. Mutual support is even more important at this time, both at home and virtually in the broadest meaning online. Social networks have become a place of relaxation for both players and viewers. We humans have proved that we can also be gladiators locked in an unlimited virtual arena where all seats are contaminated with a virus. We have fallen into a situation where all of this confusion has meant that we no longer perceive the reality of what is presented, but accept everything as (virtually) real. The second reality, and at the same time the consequence of it, is a growing attachment to the virtual world, which is incomparably more beautiful and better than the physical one as there are no disappointments in it, as there is nothing physically real at all. Derealisation of reality is a phenomenon that comes from the great influence of modern mass electronic media on human attitude towards the world. The world that comes to us through the media is in many ways the subject of a profound transformation. People also transfer this attitude towards the virtual/artificial world to the attitude towards the natural world. We are losing our true and genuine attitude towards the original world, towards nature and life. We take it as an arbitrarily rearranged and interchangeable world. This world suffers the real consequences of these virtual relationships and calls for real actions. For us, reality is no longer as direct, unique, true and real as it once was. This fact affects our judgment, evaluation, and action. We live in a time when we no longer know what is true and what is not.

But how do we now, after being (self)isolated, re-establish live contacts, scan each other and find out how and to what extent we can get closer, how much interest can we show?

Spontaneity in interpersonal relationships has been replaced by the pressure of proper procedure, technique and approach… They have limited us in space, in interpersonal contact, explained how to be at home, how to be apart… will they also show us how to appear in society, how much and how to be close again?

How are we going to get back to reality, to this time and space, to the real world?

Learning and even more so the learning of learning is accepting what exists, identifying potential shortcomings, correcting, improving, carrying it forward in the direction of lifelong learning. We will have to wake up from the virtual world and denial of feelings, numbness and apathy, and start living again. Man has historically been too focused on individual things that are supposed to offer one feelings. If we have relived this during this period, we just need to remember that feelings always exist in life, within us. It is life that gives us vital and necessary feelings, a sense of vivacity, a sense of life itself. The essence of life is not in knowing and experiencing as much as possible. The essence of life is: to live it. And everyone lives it uniquely, in their own way. Now we have time to ask ourselves about the meaning of all this, to find a way back into ourselves. A man, the processor, the maker, has already undergone lengthy development of human labour, adaptation, and creation. Each individual must learn again, perceive, experience the world and nature as his living space.

We have endless possibilities for facing challenges, the possibility of finding new paths and creating solutions.

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