BIHAĆ, 27/28 January 2019: Seven-year-old Fatma is very excited. Tomorrow, when she wakes up, her first day at school will start. She has also prepared a formal dress for her first day at school – the traditional Pakistani national costume that her mother handmade.
Similar excitement also prevails in the neighboring room of the temporary reception center. After attending school in Afghanistan and then in Serbia, eleven-year-old Mukadas and nine-year-old Ali-Saira continue their education in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Bihać, a city on the river Una, is a temporary home for approximately 200 children of migrants and refugees, who have been enrolled in four primary schools since the beginning of this semester.
“Teacher, board, table, pen, rubber, scissors …,” are the words Ali-Saira says in the Bosnian language, her knowledge of which is improving every day. Her enrolment in school was preceded by regular Bosnian language courses organized by UNICEF at the Pedagogical Faculty of the University of Bihać, thanks to the support of the European Union. Being constantly on the move was not easy but made these children talented at communication. In addition to the languages spoken in their countries of birth, most them speak English very well, and many know Turkish and Greek
The first school day in Bosnia and Herzegovina will surely be remembered by children for a long time. At the entrance of the school, they were given a warm welcome with applause and gifts.
This is a significant event not only for refugee and migrant children but also for their peers from Bihać, teachers, parents and the entire local community. This day is a symbol of welcome, solidarity, communion, and right of every child to compulsory education.
“A lot of effort was put into this day, a lot of discussions, negotiations with the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture, and Sports of Una-Sana Canton, with primary schools “Brekovica”, “Bakšaiš”, “Prokunje”, and “Harmani II”, with parents, teachers and centers. It was not easy to organize all of this. I am very glad that the children started going to their classes according to the schedule, and I am very excited and happy,” said Nevenka Lukin, UNICEF Coordinator for the Una-Sana Canton.
With the new student, the first method of work implemented will be according to the HEART method, which means learning through art and game. After gaining the necessary knowledge, boys and girls will be included in the regular plan and program.
“I would like to thank you for this wonderful welcome of children in schools and to compliment international organizations that helped us with this. Medical examinations have been done properly, everything has been prepared properly and I would like to thank them for that,” said Minister of Education, Science, Culture, and Sports of Una-Sana Canton, Damir Omerdić.
Fatma, Mukadas, and Ali-Saira are full of impressions after their first day in the new school while carrying their backpacks with school supplies they got. The realization of the right to education, the gaining of knowledge and competencies for these children is a sign that there is hope on the way to a better life for their families.
The inclusion in the regular education of the children of migrants and refugees from the Una-Sana Canton is a part of the project “EU Support to Migration and Border Management in Bosnia and Herzegovina” funded by the European Union (EU) worth more than 7.2 million Euros and implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in partnership with UNHCR and UNICEF.