The Human Rights Co-ordinator in the Government of the Republic of Kosovo has quite a lot on his plate. And now he has us too; it is he who has been given responsibility for following up the issue of getting our kids into state-funded education by September. He looks pretty tired.
Nevertheless, today he has gathered 15 people into his office to try to find a solution to these children’s plight. As well as Zsofia and I from The Ideas Partnership there is Unicef and OSCE, EULEX, the Kosovo (Soros) Foundation for an Open Society, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Local Government, the Director of Education from Fushe Kosove, the European Commission and the Council of Europe. Gjelane couldn’t get much more high-profile.
There’s some grandstanding, some coffee-ordering, some defensiveness, some empassioned pleading, much translation (there are at least five native tongues in the room, and no one language shared by everyone) some misunderstanding, some compromise, and eventually some action points. There will be an action plan drafted by the Ministry and the Municipality between them, to set out how the 55 children on our roll can be incorporated into state-funded education by September. The action plan will be presented to us by 16 June.
It’s a result. Or at least it’s a promise to have a plan to have a result.
And the rest of the day was good too. Mirjeta wrote her first sentence. We had some extremely generous donations from colleagues of Rob’s and from sponsors of my sister’s kayaking adventure on the Thames, meaning we can think about ongoing support for these children after September, with a community advocate role. A new Albanian-speaking volunteer started. We had two teachers, not just one, teaching afternoon classes. And now it’s nearly midnight and I’m looking back over the day thinking about the highlights.
This was the highlight: I left school after morning classes to walk down to where the taxis gather in order to head to my meeting with the Human Rights Co-ordinator and co. Outside the school door, hanging around before afternoon classes, there was, as ever, a gaggle of children, giggling in the sunshine. As it happened, Gjelane was one of them. She and Elvira peeled off and accompanied me as I walked down the road.
‘Where are you going?’ they asked.
A meeting, in Pristina.
‘How will you get there?’ the kids are always interested in my transport. When I went to England they asked me whether I travelled by balloon.
‘I’m getting a taxi.’
‘We’ll come with you to the taxi.’
And I walked down the sunny, dusty street, with Elvira clutching one arm and Gjelane holding the other hand. They teased and gossiped, reminisced about the funniest things they’d seen in class – Arian when he dropped his yoghurt a particular favourite. Oh, how we laughed. Elvira brought up the latest news,
‘So Emine and Samire are registered at big school, eh?’
‘Yes,’ I agreed. ‘Because they’re eight.’
‘And when can I register?’ asked Gjelane.
It’s a good question, Gjelane. And today at least I was able to tell her,
‘That’s what I’m going to Pristina to find out.’
No, not tomorrow.
I don’t know. But definitely before September.
‘Oh, I’m going to register’ Gjelane chanted, squeezing my hand as she skipped.
Definitely before September.
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