"Little Prince" of Ušivak
Girls and boys learn English in a fun way, through Akelius methodology. In addition to teachers, tablets with a language learning application help them in their work.
Faisal * is 17 years old, he arrived at the Temporary Reception Center Ušivak near Sarajevo only a month ago and is already among the best in his group at the Akelius Digital Language English course held in the Corner for unaccompanied minors.
"I have been in Bosnia for a year, I used to be in Bihać, and I have been here for the last two months. When I arrived, I started coming to this course right away. I didn't know much English, and now I know a lot, ”Faisal tells us in English. He says he went to school in Syria, but in the rare moments when circumstances allowed.
"There were frequent bombings, we couldn't always go to school," he explains. We are at one of the classes where along with their English teacher Ida Avdibegović, the young men from the group embraces the “Little Prince” through the storytelling methods, following parts of the text with matching illustrations on tablets, with a language learning application.
"You only see well with your heart," Ida writes on the board, and the group talks about it.
“It means not only seeing things physically, but also feeling them,” says Faisal as his classmated engage in discussion and write in their notebooks the new words they have learned, including sadness and grief.
"I did not come to class yesterday, and I was sad," Muhammad * gives an example of the use of the word, and Rafiq * continues:
"I'm sad because I haven't seen my parents in a long time."
Teacher Ida says she is pleased with the way children and young people attending the course are acquiring new knowledge, as well as how curious and interested in learning they are.
"It is interesting for them and they are happy to come. We learn through the method of storytelling with a focus on reading, listening, writing and speaking, with the help of tablets with an application that is easy to use,” says Ida.
It is also fun in the corner for non-formal education where a group of younger children are preparing to go to school, accompanied by their assistants Azra Pobrić and Lida Hanić. Everyone is at their desks, with tablets in their hands and headphones on. The letters, pictures of objects and tasks alternate on the screens.
"You need to repeat what you hear. You repeat everything that you hear, and then you go back to the part that is not clear to you. Don't skip ...”, they receive instructions from the assistants as they participate in the work with interest.
In this corner, children have workshops, they come to prepare for school, to get help with homework or the English and Bosnian language they need in school…, and the Akelius methodology also helps a lot.
"Children are satisfied, with a combination of symbols and words they learn quite well and quickly," says Azra, while Lida, in addition to the importance of the learning application, also emphasizes its inclusiveness:
"The application is inclusive in its content, it contains examples and situations in which children with disabilities are involved in everyday situations," she explains.
In July 2020, UNICEF began piloting the Akelius Digital Language course at five temporary reception centres. The language course, which has so far been taken by more than 1,500 refugee and migrant children, is based on digital technology and engages children in user-friendly, interactive lessons via computers and tablets. It has greatly facilitated the learning process and created a great interest in language learning not only among children but also their parents. Experiences from Bosnia and Herzegovina have been shared with UNICEF offices in Italy, Kazakhstan and Mexico.
Workshops at the Temporary Reception Center Ušivak were also attended by the Akelius Global Coordinator Philippe Testot-Ferry, the Akelius Foundation Board President Kerstin Engström and the Akelius Project Team leader Nicole Cieslick who are visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to observe the Project activities in the field. Philippe Testot-Ferry is visiting for the second time and says he has noticed progress since his previous visit in October 2020:
“Classroom control is much better, a mixed approach to teaching is used which is crucial for students to really benefit from digital learning tools. Overall, I have good impressions and I am happy to see this quality of teaching ”.
Nicole Cieslick adds that she is always glad to see the project activities "first hand" and how everything looks in practice:
“It helps us better understand what fieldwork looks like. I also had the opportunity to talk to the person in charge who revealed to us some things we were not aware of before and that we need to fix. It was also useful to talk to the teachers who work in the classrooms and see how they work and what their recommendations are for improvement because we need to work on that together ”.
Kerstin Engström from the Akelius Foundation is also pleased with what she saw in the field:
"It's interesting to see how all this works in the real world, and it makes us think about what else we can change and how we can help."
The delegation of the Akelius Foundation, together with the UNICEF BiH Representative, dr. Rownak Khan also visited the Malta Primary School, one of 10 schools in Sarajevo Canton and 10 in the Republika Srpska entity, which, with the support of UNICEF, is piloting the introduction of assistive technology and assisted communication. Each of the participating schools received five licenses for the use of a software solution in the field of assistive technologies, developed by speech therapists, psychologists and teachers. The software solution is based on symbols, with signals, icons and images that can be adapted to individual learning needs, and also enables creation of contrasting content adapted for children with visual impairments. The first teachers have already underwent the first training, three of them from the Primary School "Malta" whereasthe plan is to include up to 25 teachers per school by providing additional training.
"We are glad that UNICEF has recognized our school as a partner, and the implementation of this project will mean a lot for the inclusive process in our school. We currently have 20 students in inclusive teaching who have underwent an assessment and work as per the individually tailored programs, and another 15 students who need a teaching assistant. Through the project of the Ministry of Upbringing and Education of Sarajevo Canton, we have four assistants ", said the acting principal Amsar Hadžimujić, adding that the introduction of assistive technologies is especially important given that more and more children are included in inclusive classes:
"A few years ago, we only had a few students in inclusive education, today we have 20, and the need for support is continuously growing. I hope that this project will come to life, it is necessary to educate teachers and assistants in order to introduce new work technologies, with additional equipment. I hope that as many teachers as possible will be involved in these trainings and that they will be able to become educators for their colleagues, which would improve the process ", he added, emphasizing the importance of parents’ involvement:
"In the end, parents are the first assistants to children when they come home from school, and that is why good cooperation between teacher-assistant and school-parent is of great importance, which with the introduction of assistive technologies will ultimately contribute to students getting quality education ”.
The meeting at the Primary School "Malta" was also attended by Melisa Mizdrak, Expert Associate for inclusion in the Ministry of Upbringing and Education of the Sarajevo Canton, with whom the project is being piloted in schools in the Canton.
"It is of great importance to introduce assistive technologies and their use in primary and secondary schools as well as centres where children with disabilities are educated. That is why it is very important for us when we see that we have friends who are investing efforts, financial and other resources to help us make this process as high quality as possible, ”she said, emphasizing how important it is to include migrant children in the two primary schools they are attending in the Sarajevo Canton:
“Assistive technologies can be successfully applied in learning Bosnian and English, given that difficulties in communication are also one of the barriers to learning.
Head of the UNICEF Office in BiH dr. Rownak Khan emphasized the importance of joint efforts in. ensuring sustainability:
"Partnership with the Ministry and other actors is extremely important to us, as only in this way, by ensuring sustainability of our initiatives and projects, can we be at the centre of the solution for social inclusion."
* Names have been changed to protect the identity of the actors