Alin* from Iran celebrated her 10th birthday in the Una River Valley.
Graduation Certificate and birthday gifts brought back a smile on little Alin’s* face.
Alin* is a ten-year-old girl who has completed the fourth grade of the elementary school in one of the five schools in Una-Sana Canton (USC) where children of migrants and refugees attend classes. For her, going to school were the most beautiful moments she experienced in the past year in Bihać, where she found a temporary home under the roof of the Temporary Reception Centre "Sedra". Together with her peers, she celebrated her birthday in school. As Alin* said, it was the most beautiful birthday she had in recent years.
"I like going to school because I learn new things there, I meet new people and I like that. It feels really good there, and my classmates are good. I made a lot of friends at school and I have a good teacher. I had a birthday party. They brought me a cake, lots of presents and balloons. They’ve surprised me, I didn't imagine it would be like that "- told Alin*, happily holding the 4th Grade Graduation Certificate for the first time. She has been wanting this for a long time, and now it came true.
"It was one of my biggest wishes, to get a graduation certificate, and finally my wish came true" - she said.
Alin* has no other wishes. For three years, from her native Iran, along with her mother, father and brother, she has been stepping into a different future. She travelled across many countries, walked thousands of kilometres, but since last year, she has been staying in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), more precisely in Bihać, at the TRC "Sedra".
Graduation Certificate is a step further on that path. For the first time in the region, children of migrants and refugees received an official document from the state which proves their education. Now, when they go to one of the European countries, they will finally have proof that they went to school and that they graduated. At the Temporary Reception Centre "Sedra", 90 children welcomed the end of the school year, and graduation certificates were prepared for them.
“Education for children on the move not only provides them chances to continue to learn and to develop new capacities and skills but also gives them psychosocial support from teachers, educators and friends and peers. Education in schools give children a sense of routine and normalcy of everyday life, and the childhood that every child deserves and is entitled to” said Dr Rownak Khan, UNICEF Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"These graduation certificates, were created per the interdisciplinary competencies according to which the curriculum was made in Una-Sana Canton and is in line with the European competence framework, so this document they have will be recognised outside BiH," said Amila Madžak, UNICEF Education Officer, adding that in the school year 2019/2020, in Una-Sana Canton, through preparatory and regular classes, in five primary schools, two in Cazin and three in Bihać, 402 children of various ages from temporary reception centres passed through. 517 children are currently staying in these centres, out of which 217 are unaccompanied children.
All of these children who might have not been included otherwise were involved through online classes in preparatory classes along with cultural mediators in the camps, and the education was the only activity which persisted throughout the pandemic. The role of cultural mediators is to monitor children in the education system in Una-Sana Canton. A team of seven cultural mediators and six teachers who worked in preparatory classes at the Elementary School ’’Ostrožac’’ and the Elementary School ’’Prekounje’’ worked with the children in the temporary reception centres and schools. They accompany children on their way to school and back, help with the homework and in overcoming the language barriers. Tina Rashadatjou has been working with the elementary school students at the TRC ’’Sedra’’ for a year. She is the mediator for the Persian language, and she is in school with them as well.
"Children simply enjoy going to school. It brings them back to their normal lives, the ones they had before the move, before the migrations and everything they are currently going through. Each of these experiences is a bit traumatic for them, for each child. But when they are in school, with Bosnian children, among peers, it is a different feeling for them. It is a place where they can be children, a place where they are the happiest, and they always repeat that to us, said Tima, sharing her experiences in working with children.
Although still on their path of education and growing up, they speak several languages. It is incredible, as mediators revealed to us, how quickly they are mastering the language when they are surrounded by children. They amaze and progress every day. They show it with their knowledge, as well with their joy every time they go to school.
“They had a line in front of the camp with the inscription „bus-line“. Every morning at the same time, they would line up on their own and wait for the bus on that line, impatiently waiting for another trip to school. So, we see that they enjoy going to school and can’t wait to get to school. They are starting to learn Bosnian better than we can teach them at the camp. Of course, we are always there for them. We translate materials they cannot understand - the Bosnian language is difficult for them. However, children are quick in mastering and learning. They love Bosnian language classes the most"- said Emina Omerčević, cultural mediator for Turkish language, during the graduation ceremony.
Even in these conditions, the children of migrants and refugees do not lag. They can boast with their hard work and persistence in acquiring knowledge like other children in BiH. They finished another school year, and thanks to the graduation certificates, a smile crossed their faces, they forgot about all the misfortunes of life and opened the door to summer school. In addition to learning the basics of the language, arithmetic and writing, creative workshops for them and their parents, the unavoidable sports activities which they like the most are waiting there. For those who will be staying at USC camps, next year will follow a new, different project of learning English with tablets.
The project of including children of refugees and migrants in the formal education system in BiH is supported by the European Union, and implemented by UNICEF in cooperation with the Ministries of Education and partner organisations Save the Children and The World Vision
*Name changed to protect the identity of a minor