Sara wishes to become a violin teacher
SKOPJE, Macedonia | Sara Saluhu is 10. She’s a 4th grader now and is a good pupil. She loves music and plays violin at a music school.
Sara lives in Skopje’s neighborhood of Topaana. She used to spend most of her days on the streets. Now she goes to school; she knows kids games; she plays with many friends; most importantly, she has wishes and goals in her life.
Children on the streets are a frequent sight in Macedonia. Some of them are begging for a piece of bread or small change. They are in most cases out of the education system. Pressured by poverty, they share the destiny of their families. Topaana is a majority-Roma neighborhood.
Most people here are poor, but many hold hope of a better future. The Roma community development association Sumnal works exactly toward that goal.
“We work to bring the level of education of Roma and non-Roma pupils to the same or similar level by involving Roma children in the education process. Our activities include working with children who used to spend most of the day on the streets. We work with these children on overcoming the language barrier, speaking Macedonian, their physical development, as well as cognitive development, all with an aim to include them in the education process. The children are from 9 to 13 years of age, and according to the criteria for enrollment in primary school they do not qualify, but an exception is made for these children, so that they can be involved in the education process and have a better future, “says Nadica Shtrbevska, educator and project-coordinator at Sumnal.
Through their work over the years the Sumnal educators have managed to raise the awareness among the local population about the importance of education of children and parents’ responsibilities when it comes to education and healthcare and becoming active actors in creating their children’s and their own future through participation in different walks of life.
“Their mothers are also involved in daily activities, and they also participate in activities at home in order to be able to repeat the things that are taught here. We also organize education workshops for mothers, “says Shtrbevska.
“For eight years now I have come here with my children. Even before my child started kindergarten I was coming here. Once my child started coming here there was a lot of improvement, which is why I continued to bring the child here on a regular basis, “says Ahmet Igber, mother.
Sumnal also strives to improve the status of Roma in society by implementing project aimed at advancing their economic status and projects focused on health issues. In addition, Sumnal works toward building and strengthening the multiethnic society and multiethnic dialogue by promoting the spiritual and material culture of Roma people.
“In addition to education as a priority of our organization, we work on the quality of life of citizens living in Topaana through stimulating the citizens to use certain opportunities that they have in society, access to information and institutions. For young Roma we also arrange re-qualifying trainings for professions that are in demand on the job market, so that they could use their skills and find work,” says Nadica Shtrbevska.
The efforts of Sumnal and other organizations have produced tangible results. Only five years ago there were very few Roma pupils in secondary schools, while now there are hundreds. Five years ago there were less than ten Roma studying at Macedonia’s universities—now there are more than a 100 at different faculties.
This is all, of course, good news for Sara, who would like to become a violin teacher.
This article originally appeared on Tocak, a news and information portal on and for the Roma communities of the Balkans operated by Transitions and four partner organizations in Bosnia, Serbia and Macedonia.