Volunteers decided to set up catch-up classes for the children to prepare for an entrance exam and be able to join the mainstream educational system. (UNV, 2011)

A patch of hope for children

I was moved by the every-day effort, patience and engagement of the volunteers who committed their time for this valuable initiative.

Fushë Kosovë, Kosovo: When I went to the district of Fushë Kosovë for the first time, I thought I was prepared enough not to be shocked. Driving in a warm and comfortable jeep, I didn’t have to walk on a muddy and uneven road to reach the school, where I was asked to go for an assessment visit.

As soon as I shyly entered the classroom, all the children’s bright eyes were on me, and I couldn’t do anything other than 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 think about all the colours and toys and fairy books of my childhood.

Later on I was told about the problem The Ideas Partnership (TIP) NGO is addressing: by conducting a house-to-house survey, the TIP’s volunteers found out that a lot of children in the district were not attending school. As they inquired about the reasons for such low attendance, a big gap in the Kosovo educational system emerged: if children don’t register for school when they are 7 or 8, they have to pass a test to join the mainstream education.

But at the moment there is no provision for them to catch up and successfully pass the entrance exam which would allow them to attend school. Basically they irreversibly lose the chance to get an education, excluding them from the labour market of the future and preventing them from improving their situation.

Considering this difficult context, TIP volunteers decided to set up catch-up classes, in order to give children a second chance to pass the exam and join the mainstream educational system. As a UN Volunteer working with UNDP, I was looking forward to leaving my office for a while and working directly in the field. I was moved by the every-day effort, patience and engagement of the volunteers who committed their time for this valuable initiative.

Thanks to several donations, the NGO managed to obtain useful and essential items for the school, such as tables, carpet and small funds to provide kids with yogurt and a piece of fruit every day.

The day after the first visit, UNDP and UNV jointly started procedures to support the project, and on Thursday 14 April, we delivered new desks and tables, notebooks, bookshelves, grammar books and stationery. 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 to them - to play and conduct an activity together.  

Only three weeks after the catch-up classes started, the school already looks much more cosy and colourful. It creates a homely environment, with pictures and drawings hung everywhere. Of course what has been done so far is not enough.

Hopefully this will be considered as a pilot project and it will be extended throughout Kosovo under the competency of the municipalities, but at least for now it gives a patch of hope to the children of Fushë Kosovë, who are given an opportunity for inclusive growth.