Text and photo: Almir Panjeta
Sisters Samanta and Zlata have completed the second grade of Jovan Ducic Primary School and they hope that their sister Manuela will join them in school again. The three of them regularly attend the Day Care Center for Children at Risk in Bijeljina run by the Citizens’ Association for the Promotion of Roma Education “Otaharin”, and participate in activities supported by Save the Children and the European Union. Samanta and Zlata receive help with homework or exam preparation at the Center, while Manuela draws, writes and hangs out with children until she starts school again, which she interrupted after a break caused by a car accident in which she was hit as a pedestrian.
“At school, I love math, and I like to draw. I love to draw my teacher the most. When I grow up, I would love to be a baker”, Samantha tells us, and Zlata adds that she likes drawing the best:
“I love art, I love to draw flowers. I love animals, especially cats, and when I grow up, I would like to be a vet and help them. I know it takes a high school diploma, and it takes a lot of studying”, Zlata says. In addition to school, both are happy to participate in sports workshops as a part of projects run by the Association.
“We go to the City Stadium and the girls from the Radnik Women’s Soccer Club teach us how to play soccer. We cheer for them and we would love to be like them one day and play in big matches!”, adds Zlata.
“I want my children to finish school, to have some craft, to earn their living and to have a better life than I had. I couldn’t finish school, so now Zlata helps me with letters, to read and to write. We have a difficult life, we need all the help, but school is a priority”, says their mom Mirsada, who also hopes to be able to bring Manuela back to school.
“She was hit by a car, she hadn’t gone to school for two months, and she had surgery as well. Now, with the psychologist Rada I am trying to get her ready to start again”, Mirsada says, adding that the support of the Center means a lot to her:
“Children are there, learning, people help them with their homework, send them to school, and then I can work, take care of things and make sure we have the basic things.”
Day Center Coordinator Snežana Antunović says Samanta, Zlata and Manuela are among the most regular at the center, and have participated in all activities conducted by the Association as a part of the project Bright4All ‘A Basic Right for Education for All Children in BiH’. The project is funded by the European Union in the amount of € 350,000, and being implemented by Save the Children in partnership with OC Vermont and the Association of Women from Una from Bihać.
“The Bright4All project aims at bringing children back to the education system as well as preventing dropping out of school, so through fieldwork we have mapped out children who attend school irregularly or not at all. Our Center has 112 permanent beneficiaries. We included 146 of them through fieldwork, and through the project we worked with 30 children who met these criteria and with whom we worked intensively”, says Snežana Antunović.
Psychologist Radmila Tubić says that working with children, but also with parents, who are very important, is crucial for successful results:
“We have an individual work plan for each child, but the key is a successful triangle: Center-child-parent. A two-way communication with school is also important, which is good. We get information from the school about absences, if children need help with any of the subjects, they suggest that we pay more attention to these subjects in the workshops and work more intensively. They give us additional suggestions or details about the subject content. Since we also monitor the situation in the family, we may involve parents or enhance counselling”, explains Radmila Tubić, emphasizing the importance of joint action by all stakeholders in the prevention of education drop-out.