Text and photo: Almir Panjeta
Siblings Mirza* and Jasna* from Bihać say their favorite class is art. Jasna* says she would love to become a painter, while Mirza* could not show us much of his work since the most of it is displayed at the school exhibition. He would like to become a police officer, he says, or maybe a painter.
Leonardo and Van Gogh are not particularly interesting to them at this point, so when asked about their role model in the world of art, they readily say - Selma Selman, a world famous artist from their neighborhood with her works displayed at the world’s most famous galleries, who now works at the Syracuse University.
Jasna* has finished her fifth grade, and Mirza* sixth grade at the Prekounje Elementary School. Their brothers, Irhad* and Nermin*, have finished fourth and seventh grade at the same school. Little Rijad* should start school next year, and the youngest Aida* is only three and still has some time to wait before starting school. Everyone except Aida* have used services of the Drop-in centre for street involved children in Bihać that is run by the Žene s Une Association, with support from the European Union and Save the Children.
“I like going to school, I want to become a police officer and that is why I work so hard. I think all my peers should go to school since that is how they can learn more and become what they want”, says Mirza* who not only paints, but also practices soccer at the club called “Metalac”, and he is also a fan of Juventus. He participated in a workshop organized as a part of the project “Ostajem u školi” (“I’m staying in school”) implemented by LAN Association, which is also a part of a big project called “Bright4All - Basic right to education for all children in BiH” funded by the European Union, and implemented by Save the Children.
“The workshops were interesting, teaching us what to do if someone gets violent, and about staying healthy, so we have learned a lot”, says Mirza*.
His mother Mensura* and his father Midhat* say that despite their difficult financial situation, their greatest desire was to have all of their children finish school.
“I’d like to see them all graduate from the elementary school, as I have, but it would make me happy to see them go even further with their education”, says Mensura*, while Midhat* adds he would do anything to make it happen for them.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to go to school, but I believe I should do my best to have them educated. Parents often say they cannot afford it, neither can I, but you must do anything you can to send your children to school. There is no point in looking back, only forward, and that is - putting children in school!”, father Midhat* explained.
The European Union has allocated 350,000 euros for the “Bright4All - Basic right to education for all children in Bosnia and Herzegovina” project, implemented by Save the Children in partnership with Youth Center “Vermont” and “Žene sa Une” Association from Bihać. The project included a local action survey about the extent and causes behind dropping school that involved 1,132 children from the Una-Sana and the Tuzla Canton, Prijedor, Bijeljina, and the Brčko District, and the results were used by work groups to devise an action plan for prevention of early dropping-out of school. Since one of the goals of the Project is to build capacities of CSOs to enable them to make long-term contributions to the process of bringing the children back to school, but also to the process of preventing dropping out of school in the future, a public call vas announced to seek support for projects, including the project of the LAN Association.
The duration of the “I’m staying in school” project is 10 months, and it is implemented in eight elementary schools in Bihać. We hold workshops with children, parents and teachers, round tables, visits of elementary students to secondary schools, and promotional activities that can help in preventing early dropping out of school, and to ensure opportunities for the children at risk to get their education”, says Izolda Osmanagić from the LAN Association, stressing how not only children and their parents, but also teachers represent an important target group for this project.
“The workshops are rather specific, they deal with the issues of importance of education, building confidence, learning methods, and communication skills. We teach the teachers on how important improving of quality in education is, and the goal is to enable them to recognize children at risk and to act accordingly”, concluded Izolda Osmanagić adding how the LAN Association was dedicated to staying available to the children, parents and schools even after the project is completed.