Non-formal education opens new horizons for a 14-year-old refugee

“I want to feel real love”

Nejra Baltes
Mustafa (14) communicating with his teacher while participating to non-formal education workshop in TRC Usivak
UNICEF/Hemreković
26 October 2020

“I want to feel real love”, says a fourteen-year-old Mustafa, who left his homeland Egypt to escape the arranged marriage. Mustafa is a middle child, with two older sisters and two younger brothers.

“I was too old to play with my younger brothers, but I felt I was also too young to be married”, explains Mustafa.

Instead, Mustafa yearns for education and never skips lessons World Vision BiH offers in the Temporary Reception Centre Ušivak, in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

“He is a very bright and curious boy”, observes Lida Hanić – Assistant Teacher  

The lessons that take place in the centre are a part of a wider effort aiming to provide a sense of stability to children on the move, assist unaccompanied minors and provide psychosocial support to mothers and future mothers. With the support of UNICEF, through a project funded by the European Union World Vision BiH is providing protection and access to basic social services for refugee and migrant children in the Refugee Reception Centre Salakovac – Mostar and Temporary Reception Centre Ušivak – Sarajevo.

Mustafa enjoys learning languages. He tries to catch words of Arabic origin in the language spoken by locals. He writes these words dutifully in the notebook that he always keeps on him.

“I am creating a common language of my people and people here”, he says smiling.

The non-formal education programme offers typical school lessons in mathematics and language attempting to provide children on the move with basic knowledge appropriate for their age. These lessons are supplemented with workshops providing children creative outlet and aiming to familiarize them with values such as the need for equality, and behaviors such as respect for other children.

“I love the school here. Teachers keep encouraging me to learn more”, says Mustafa talking about the non-formal education programme in the centre. However, he never mentions his previous education and acts shyly when he knows less than other children do.

“We monitor their progress and aim to adjust the lessons to their level of knowledge”, says Lida

Mustafa tells us that he dreams of reaching Italy and attending classes, just like he does here.

Before coming to BiH and the camp Ušivak, Mustafa crossed trough many countries in the Balkan Peninsula. Traveling alone, and without any money, his circumstances changed daily. He was often without weather appropriate clothing and a place to rest. Yet every day, he finds a way to call his family.

“I do not share all the details with them. I do not wish to worry my mother”, says Mustafa. He admits he  still harbors resentment towards his family for pressuring him into an arranged marriage at his age.

He often daydreams of Italy, a country that has a special place in this boys’ heart.

“Life in Italy must be beautiful. Sipping coffee and eating a croissant, it must be easy to fall in love there”, he says.