Today started well, with Nerxhivane’s mother coming to see me before school. No parent has ever done that in the exactly eight weeks we’ve been running our classes. What’s more, she came to see me to explain that Nerxhivane wouldn’t be coming to school today because she was going to have a tooth taken out. That’s never happened either. What it means is that for Nerxhivane and her mum, these classes are no longer seen as an optional extra, something to do on the days when there’s no market on, or begging to be done. They are some kind of a commitment.
The day finished well too – with a different kind of commitment at a meeting at the Ministry of Education. It was in this meeting that I really began to believe that Nerxhivane and the other kids who come to classes with us could be in school in September. The official I met with told me that a new scheme of ‘non-formal education’ is being developed in Kosovo, aimed at children who have been out of school. Importantly it offers a certificate which would have the same value (she assured me) as the certificate issued at the end of nine years of primary school. To access this education and this certificate the children won’t have to pass a test – all children will be able to join. The scheme is only being piloted at the moment, but Fushe Kosove is one of the pilot municipalities.
I’m nervous about this system – could it end up creating apartheid in the education system? More pragmatically, I’m nervous when the officer mentions that there had been a plan for this scheme to start in January but there have been delays. What assurance is there that there won’t be more delays? By September I have sworn that we won’t be holding these classes any more – it would be a failure of what we’re trying to achieve if after six months the kids are still dependent for their education on a rented flat and a gang of volunteer teachers. Can this scheme work, and work in time?
I want to know more about what the children will be taught in their non-formal education. Apparently details still haven’t been tightened up, but there is an awayday on the coast in Albania next week and after that we’ll know more. I think about Durres and its ice creams, imagine its sea breezes ruffling the hair of the team from the Ministry, and I really hope they make some good quick decisions while they’re there. I really hope that they will get Gjelane to school.
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