When I grow up, I’ll be a…When I grow up, I’ll be a…When I grow up, I’ll be a…When I grow up, I’ll be a…When I grow up, I’ll be a…When I grow up, I’ll be a…

When I grow up, I’ll be a…

01 February 2013, Leskovac

“When I grow up, I’ll be a doctor. I will help people get better. I will cure old people,” proudly says eleven-year old Nejžla. “But in order to become a doctor, I must study a lot,” she adds. Nine-year old Aki, sitting next to her in school, says he will be a football player. Although he is the best in class in mathematics for which you “need a good brain” as he says, his heart is at the Red Star football stadium. Vasip has just started attending school. He is seven and he likes to study. His favourite song is ”Every morning I wash my chest, for real people that’s the best…” In his free time, he plays the darbuka drum (goblet drum).

Nejžla, Aki and Vasip attend additional classes organized for Roma children by non-governmental organization Rosa from Leskovac, with financial support by the European Union and the Government of Switzerland, two donors financing the European Partnership with Municipalities Programme - EU PROGRES.

“There are 7,000 Roma in Leskovac that account for 5% of the population. The children have socialization issues; often times they do not speak Serbian and thus find it difficult to fit into school. Their parents are often seasonal workers and are not at home so, the little ones grow up with grandparents who cannot help them accomplish their tasks,” says Zoran Saitovic, project coordinator.

The project encompasses over forty preschool and school children. Every day they learn Serbian language, practice mathematics and acquire knowledge essential for their lives. “The children are not motivated to learn. Very often they are returnees from abroad and do not know the language. Most of them speak Roma at home. Even when their parents speak Serbian, they do not teach them the language,” says their tutor Goran Saitović.

According to the unofficial data there are half a million Roma living in Serbia. Poverty rate of Roma population amounts to 50%. It is difficult for them to find employment, they do not have formal education, they live in unhygienic environments and do not have adequate access to personal documentation. And those are just some of the problems the Roma are faced with.

“Roma children are among the poorest inhabitants of Serbia. Lack of education is among the basic causes and effects of their poverty: as much as 62% of Roma do not have primary education and 80% are functionally illiterate. Only 13% of Roma children in Serbia complete their primary education. That is why preschool learning is very important since it creates positive social surrounding,” says Graeme Tyndall, EU PROGRES Programme Manager.

EU PROGRES supported improvement in the quality of life for the Roma population in Leskovac through other projects as well. Broadcast equipment was procured for Radio Leskovac. Hence the increased coverage of programmes intended for Roma population such as Roma language news and shows about social issues, health and employment. EU PROGRES also supported the organization of an art colony for 30 primary school children of Serbian and Roma nationality who showed their talents through joint work and also showed how much they respect diversity and promote tolerance. EU PROGRES supported also a central celebration of an International Roma Day organised in Leskovac on 8 April last year.

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Please be informed that the European Partnership with Municipalities Programme – EU PROGRES was completed on 31 March 2014. If you would like to learn about the activities and results of the European PROGRES, which is a continuation of development support of the European Union and Government of Switzerland to the South East and South West Serbia, please visit www.europeanprogres.org