A decision

So there are some big decisions to make:

Can Rob and I live without a salary for me for a while? Having just spent a day with Gjelane’s family of 7, living on 75 euros a month, I think the only responsible answer to that question is Yes.

Could I teach children like this to read and write? Well, I’ve been teaching for 15 years, and children are children, and the alphabet is still the alphabet – and as Phoebe from Friends says, ‘we know that ends well’.

Would it be irresponsible or cowardly to focus on teaching, when I could probably use what I know about Kosovo’s education system to try to change things at a system level for Gjelane and the other kids like her, who are blocked from accessing school now just because they didn’t register when they were 7 or 8?  Or is it in fact irresponsible and cowardly to try to tackle this problem by having a series of meetings and makiatos with decision makers and NGOs in Pristina while I leave Gjelane still unable to write her name, just 5 km away.  I ask Zsofia which approach I should take.  ‘Er, why not both?’

So that’s what we’ll do.  We’ll start offering catch-up classes to kids aged 9 and over who aren’t registered in school; the aim will be for them to be able to pass their test and rejoin their peers.  We’ll offer classes from 10-12 every morning, and then have the afternoons free to talk to potential partners and solvers of this problem, not just for Gjelane – not just in Fushe Kosove, but across Kosovo.  I’ll work on this till September and then we’ll see how far we’ve got.

It’s easy.  All we need is… a space to hold classes, support from the local community, some money to pay for the rent, a load of teaching resources, some more volunteers who can help teach…  Oh God, it’s not easy at all.

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

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6 Responses to A decision

  1. Jen says:

    You’re gonna have fun! It’ll be great!
    Do sing~ first thing in the mornings!!!! 🙂
    “may the beauty of the Lord your God be upon you,
    and establish the work of your hands.”

  2. Arta says:

    Dear Elizabeth,
    Balkan Sunflowers is an NGO that helps all children from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities – they offer catch up classes for all the children in need of extra lessons.
    They also work with pree-school children, schools in Fusha Kosova are also quite pro-active in helping these children.
    A lot of NGO’s are quite active in Fushe Kosova (health, education, sport activities but of course their needs are always quite big)
    I think instead of giving up your job you should visit BSF and if happy with their work maybe give a donation and make sure that this family is contacted by the BSF and that their needs are adressed by them.
    If you want to help anyway, they always welcome voulnteers and appreciate their help a lot.
    All the best,

    • Hi Arta, thanks for your comment. Yes, Balkan Sunflowers are a great organisation and the community in Fushe Kosove is very lucky to have them working there. They work to support children registered in school, and so their policy is not to work with children who are not registered. The kids like Gjelane who missed the 2-year registration period aren’t covered by that work, although BSF has worked very hard to accommodate them where they can within adult literacy programmes etc. I worked with kids through Balkan Sunflowers on our summer camp last year, and since then we’ve managed to do a few small things to support their work, including fundraising through our NGO, The Ideas Partnership, to donate computers, printer, heaters and other things that were needed by Balkan Sunflowers following a break-in and theft at their Fushe Kosove Learning Centre over the New Year holiday. I know how helpful BSF can be, and how fast they respond because when I first met Gjelane’s family her two brothers aged 6 and 7 weren’t at school so I contacted BSF who then helped register these boys, and the boys now attend catch-up classes with Balkan Sunflowers. It’s been great to talk through the catch-up classes I’ll be running with the BSF staff; our short-term project hopefully patches a gap in provision for the group of kids like Gjelane and we’ve said that we’ll keep in close contact to share what we’re doing.

  3. Jacqui Davis says:

    Now, Bee, what can I do at this end? Can Sue and I do something now while we wait to come out in June?

  4. peter samsom says:

    Inspiring stuff!

  5. Pingback: Gjelane revisited. How have we spent the last year? | Getting Gjelane to school

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