Zoran Nikolovski, Director of the Lazar Tanev School: excellent promotion for Macedonia
With his mobile phone clamped to his ear or in the palm of his hand, Zoran Nikolovski, organizer of the 25th Annual Conference, was everywhere. Keeping an eye on every detail. Smoothing over this or that last minute difficulty. Without stopping smiling, this true conductor of the carefully orchestrated event also took the time to answer a few questions.
Have you had any problems in organizing this Conference? For example with the transfers or with the accommodation?
Organizing an event like this one has been a real challenge for me as director of the Lazar Tanev School, as well as for the staff who have worked with me. It has required a lot of effort and cooperation with those in charge of the travel agencies, the hotel directors, etc. We had to have discussions with everyone to beef up the services offered by the hotels, to install special equipment for the competitions, to find people to run the contests and to speak at the academic sessions, to organize the excursions and the transfers etc. Of course, we have faced problems in organising an event like this. From our point of view our main problem was that we received the competitions rules quite late, making it difficult to ensure we were able to implement them. But in the end we made alterations to meet the latest changes and we were ready in time despite everything.
To organize all this, how many people worked behind the scenes?
I headed up a team from the school consisting of 48 teachers and 153 students. All of these people were in charge of the organization at various levels to ensure the smooth running of the Conference. Not forgetting, it should be said, the help from 42 technicians from various sectors of the tourism or hotel industry.
In the end, are you pleased with the way the event is running?
Absolutely! I am very pleased with the way this Conference is going. All our expectations have been met.
Do you have the feeling that the participants have experienced great satisfaction at having taken part in this Conference?
For this purpose we produced a questionnaire to find out more about it. The questionnaire shows that, yes, the participants have been very satisfied not only with the beauty of our fine country but also thanks to the excursions on offer. But they were also pleased with the hospitality they found here in Macedonia, and particularly with the welcome they received when they arrived at Skopje airport, at the various parts of the event such as the opening ceremony, the Macedonian evening, the red and yellow disco night as well as the gala dinner. The contestants were also satisfied with the latest equipment and everything that was provided for them in large quantities.
It was an excellent means of promoting Macedonia, wasn’t it?
Indeed it was, I fully agree with what you say.Events of this type, with so many participants, don’t happen every day in our country, but it gave us a lot of motivation. It has allowed us to spread the word about the potential as tourist sites of all the beauties of our country. As you know very well, the rule is that one satisfied visitor brings ten more! I really believe that we have achieved an enormous task which has left an excellent impression on all those who have come here for the first time. Because our Macedonian hospitality teaches us the ‘the first impression is also the last’.
One last question: will the financial outcome of this event be as you wished it?
Well, we are trying to recover some small sums of money owed by some schools, these are the bank charges included in the overall price but for which payment was not made when the invoice was settled. But some of these schools have already paid what they owe.
As for the sponsors, we had approached some large companies which did not see fit to respond. We had anticipated these refusals to some extent and turned instead to smaller companies, and this enabled us to better budget for everything. And the AEHT’s help was essential to cover costs such as those of using professional judges among others.
President Klaus Enengl: the AEHT family is alive and well – and how!
Klaus Enengl has headed up the AEHT for three years and is now at the start of the final year of his presidency. Of course he keeps close watch on how the Macedonian conference is running, and what he sees gives him great satisfaction.
Generally speaking, he said, we have to admire the fact that such a young country has so quickly taken the decision to run this Conference. In recent years I had been able to promote the Macedonian schools through the Austrian ministry, and I had been able to see the progress being made in the various areas of training. This is why I can say without hesitation that this Conference has been a success. Starting with our welcome at Skopje airport with bread, salt and drinks. The same can be said of the organization, for example holding the greater part of the Conference in Ohrid was an excellent idea. And also transfering the participants to Skopje on the last day, which made the departure transfers so much easier. I should mention that despite the Presidium making requests for changes in the course of the year, the reply was always ‘yes we’ll try’ and never ‘no way’! Faced with the large numbers of changes requested, there is no doubt that other schools in other countries would also have experienced problems. The situation was quickly understood and the problems were always taken seriously, solutions sought and compromises reached.
What about the new formula for the competitions?
Awarding medals for quality rather than awarding a single medal for each category has been welcomed by the majority of participants, and furthermore it is in keeping with international standards. It is true that you could feel the tension when the medals were awarded, but it was positive, even if there were a lot of young people on the podium. The Presidium took on board the wish expressed by teachers not to be part of judging panels. That is why we have tried a new formula with professional judges which, I have to admit, has not completely met our expectations. I think that in future we are going to return to the old method again. Moreover, it is remarkable that many colleagues from many countries have said that they are willing to be judges next year, which seems to me a very positive thing. It proves that the AEHT family is alive and well. And how!
What is more, we have received a lot of requests for another change: that the competitions be shortened so that everyone can take part in the activities planned for the afternoon.
How did you find the general atmosphere at this Conference?
Well, I found that the atmosphere among the participants was excellent. It is always a pleasure to meet friends again and to talk with them. And it is also a pleasure to see all these young people from so many countries meeting each other, understanding each other very quickly, so that then they can return home taking with them such a wealth of experience.
Macedonia has shown us its great sense of hospitality and its great skill on the culinary front. Both the buffets and the drinks were excellent, and so was the programme for our stay: thus everyone can take back home their authentic impressions of this still young country.
What we can learn from Macedonia, it is to be patient. In Europe, we always hear ‘faster, faster!’ while in Macedonia time takes its time. For example some people got annoyed about the hour’s delay in beginning the opening ceremony and said that it could have been shorter, but we can say with hindsight that they did things well and that we have spent a fine and enriching week in the company of real friends.
Alain Rossignol: An observer of the use of French
Alain Rossignol is discrete but omnipresent; this educational consultant follows the AEHT’s activities very closely, and for a very good reason: he is a former regional schools inspector specialsing in economics and financial management, so that hotel and restaurant studies were part of his domain. He had several times been seconded to French embassies as cultural counsellor and had worked with the International Organisation of French-speaking Countries (Organisation internationale francophone, O.I.F).
His presence at the Conference is explained by the high concentration of school directors from a large number of countries, which enables him to meet a maximum number of directors in a very short time. As he explained, ‘As you know, the OIF has 57 countries and governments among its members, as well as 19 observer countries. At present two further countries are seeking membership: Uruguay and Qatar. One of our objectives is to promote teacher training and to set up bilingual classes. We have had a teaching programme for the last five years and the first of these was implemented here in Macedonia, in the Lazar Tanev school run by Zoran Nikolovski. This same programme has been set up in six countries: Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Moldova and of course, as I said, Macedonia. In each case the programme is run in eight schools. Moreover some of the teachers come to France for training courses. Furthermore a new programme in the field of entrepreneurship is due to be implemented over the coming five years. My presence in Ohrid is also, in my role as observer, a privileged means of seeing how the French language is faring within the AEHT.
And how is it faring?
I cannot help seeing that it has been largely replaced by English. But I’m also in favour of promoting multilingualism. But in saying this I’m obviously speaking in a personal capacity, and not on behalf of the OIF’.
MEETINGS WITH STUDENTS
Their smiles alone say it all! Just before the gala dinner, as I met them in the crowds hurrying to the dining hall while sipping their drinks, these young people had just had the exceptional experience of participating in the competitions. No need to ask them for their impressions, they are always the same: they are delighted to have taken part in the Conference and in the competitions, they are happy to have met young people of the same age, to have experienced an unforgettable event in another country, and to have realised how important it is to master another language.