Perhaps Gjelane is an isolated case. We’ve met her family, and also some of her neighbours, but to do something really useful for this community, I realise I need to know how many Gjelanes there are, who want to go to school, but have missed the two year registration period and won’t be allowed into the classroom unless they pass a test. Gjelane’s dad says he could take us round the homes in his neighbourhood, and we could meet other families to find out how big the hole in this net is.
So with colleagues in our NGO (Laura Sparkes, Zsofia Kuszenda, Jeta Lepaja) we put together the simple questions for a house-to-house survey. In one day we managed to visit 21 houses, and what we saw didn’t make me feel much better: there are lots of other Gjelanes – just in these 21 households, 18 more kids who fall into the same category as her (i.e. who fall through the same hole in the education net).
And now I can’t sleep, partly because this problem is so huge and so serious, and partly because I know that all that’s needed to solve it in the short term, is a qualified, committed teacher who speaks Albanian and has the time to teach…
Gjelane’s story is now told in a book published as The Rubbish-Picker’s Wife; an unlikely friendship in Kosovo (Elbow Publishing, 2015) and available on Amazon