What the twelve year-olds taught me

Guest blogger: Kaltrina Kusari

I initially wanted to be a part of the catch-up classes in Fushe-Kosove because I grew up in Kosova, but I was rarely exposed to the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities. I wanted to immerse myself into these communities in order to understand where their traditions come from, and how they ended up in Kosova. I also enjoy working with children, so this was the perfect opportunity to do something that I have been interested in for a long time. After two weeks of working with our students, I have learned more from them than they have learned from me.

These students keep reminding me that education does not only happen at schools. The students that we teach know a lot, but because this knowledge is different from that of other children their age, they are not appreciated as much. For example, Hamide, one of the students who helped us clean up the school one day told me that it is important to do a job the best we can, no matter what job it is. I was amazed to hear this coming from a 12 year old, who has to pass many bureaucratic challenges to attend mainstream schools in Kosova.

The students have also taught me that patience is a virtue. I tend to get frustrated when I do not understand something, but these students keep trying to spell a word, pronounce a letter, or solve a math problem no matter how many times they fail. They listen to the lessons with attention, and I can see how they process the information by just looking at their eyes. They are always hungry for more knowledge. When Jetmir was having particular difficulty remembering the letter X, I asked him to associate the letter with a word that started with X. Ever since, he has learned to associate other letters with words that he already knows.

Helping these children gives me a sense of fulfillment. Every time they learn how to spell their names, or write a number I know that they are one step closer to joining the schools that I was able to attend. Going to these schools might be difficult for them because of the prejudice they face, but they are taught enough to handle it. I know why the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities are not favored in Kosova, but these are only kids, and we can shape them to be an integral part of the new country that we are all building.

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