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