Our first day in Kosovo started with an introduction at the Save the Children country office in Pristina. We got to know the team involved in project activities that are supported by the IKEA Foundation, who told us about their work and some background facts. The projects focus on inclusive education for marginalised children, mainly kids with disabilities and from ethnic minorities, such as Roma, Egyptian and Ashkali (RAE).
The first project we visited was a school in Gracanica, a municipality close to Pristina with a Serbian majority. “Kralj Milutin” is one of the oldest primary schools in Kosovo and mirrors the ethnic structure of this municipality. Seventeen per cent of the pupils enrolled at the school are from RAE communities.
Here we talked to the school principal Vladimir Milkić and Snežana, the Director of the local NGO partner, Putevima Sunca Gracanica, which acts as a bridge by supporting kids in the transition between pre-school and primary school.
We found out about the biggest challenges kids from RAE communities are facing: they often drop out of school, girls due to early marriage or because they have to start working to help earn an income for their families. Another obstacle is that they speak their Romany mother tongue at home but need to learn Serbian or Albanian as a second language to be included in the school system. Widespread migration among RAE families leads to children often missing classes and kids falling out of the school system. Missing official documents often means they are unable to register in schools.
“Education is the only ticket to a better life,” says Snežana. The biggest achievement of the project, that has been running for almost six years in total, is that each child in Gracanica has been reached for enrolment in the first grade (compared to the national average of 68%).
We had the chance to participate in a supplementary lesson, in which children can improve their knowledge in Serbian and mathematics. With these lessons the local NGO, Putevima Sunca Gracanica, makes sure that marginalised children can catch up with the regular curriculum.
Entering the classroom we felt the vibrant energy of the children. They were curious and open-minded towards their visitors and motivated and active in their lesson. We didn’t need a common language to communicate.
Time just flew by and we, as well as the kids, wished we could have stayed a little longer.