A patch of hope for children of Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje

14 Apr 2011

Struggling against denied education

When I’ve been for the first time in the RAE district of Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje, I thought I was prepared enough not to remain shocked and at the same time fascinated. Driving in a warm and comfortable jeep, I didn’t have to walk on a muddy and uneven road to reach the so called “school”, where I was asked to go for an assessment visit.

As soon as I shyly entered the classroom, all the bright children eyes were on me, and I couldn’t do anything apart from raising a smile: 48 kids of a wide range of ages, sitting on the bare floor, proudly trying to write their names and carefully listening to the teacher’s instructions. It was probably colder inside the classroom than outside, and the empty walls immediately made me thinking about all the colours and toys and fairy books of my childhood.

Later on I was explained the problem The Ideas Partnership NGO (TIP) is addressing: according to a house-to-house survey, the TIP’s volunteers found out that a lot of children of the district were not attending schools. Inquiring about the reasons why, a big gap in the Kosovo educational system surfaced: if children don’t register for school when they are 7 or 8, they have to pass an exam to rejoin the mainstream education. But at the moment there is no provision for them to catch up and successfully pass the entrance test which should allow them to attend school. Basically they irreversibly lose chance to get education, which excludes them from the job market of the future and prevents them from improving their already miserable situation.

Considering this burdensome context, TIP volunteers decided to roll up their sleeves and set up catch-up classes, in order to give them a second chance to join the mainstream educational system and to pass the exam. Being a UN Volunteer working in UNDP, I was looking forward to leaving my office for a while and experiencing directly on the field. I was moved by the every-day effort, the patience and engagement of the volunteers, who are committing their time for this valuable initiative. Thanks to several private donations, the NGO managed to obtain useful and essential items for the school, such as tables, carpet and small funds to provide kids with a yogurt and a piece of fruit every day.

The day after the first visit,  UNDP and UNV jointly started procedures in order to support the project, and on Thursday 14 April, we delivered new desks and tables, notebooks, bookshelves, grammar books and stationary. What always surprises me about children, is their contagious enthusiasm:  after a loud ‘ooohhh’ appreciation for these small items provided, they allowed us – perfect strangers for them – to play and conduct an activity altogether. 

After only three weeks since the catch-up classes started, the school already looks much more cosy and colourful. It gives a sense of homely environment, with pictures and drawings hung everywhere.  Of course what has been done so far is not enough. Hopefully this project will be considered as a pilot project and it will be extended Kosovo-wide under the Municipalities’ competency, but at least for now it gives a patch of hope to the children of Fushë Kosovë/Kosovo Polje, who are now given a possibility for an inclusive growth.

Giulia Martin

UNDP Kosovo Programme Analyst