Better-quality education – urgent priority for Montenegro

UNICEF, the British Embassy in Podgorica, the NGO “Montenegro Teachers’ Association” and the NGO “Parents” are calling for all children to return to school

UNICEF Montenegro
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2021
09 August 2021

PODGORICA, 6 AUGUST 2021 – UNICEF, the British Embassy in Podgorica, the NGO “Montenegro Teachers’ Association” and the NGO “Parents” are calling for all children to return to school and to receive the quality education and support they need for learning and development. They remind everyone that it is not enough for schools to simply reopen their doors in September. It is necessary to enable schools to provide a safe environment, to support teachers to address students’ learning losses and incorporate digital technology into classrooms effectively, as well as to promote the psycho-social wellbeing of both students and teachers. The best way to achieve this is through joint work and consultations with all stakeholders, especially teachers, students, parents and local communities.

UNICEF Montenegro Representative Juan Santander expressed UNICEF’s belief that keeping schools open is in the best interest of children and society. All children need this for their learning, development and mental health. The evidence for the safety of in-person learning is overwhelming and the availability of vaccines to teachers, parents and older family members has made it more so.

While drawing attention to the profound impact of school closures on students, Santander highlighted that it would not be enough to simply reopen the classrooms. Children will need effective remedial support to recover their learning losses. All teachers will need to be supported to be prepared to address these learning losses and to incorporate digital technology into their teaching.

“In order to jointly respond to these challenges, it is more important than ever to rely on broad and continuous consultations to support the education system to respond well to the needs of all children, especially those most disadvantaged, including children with disabilities, those living in poverty and Roma and Egyptian students. UNICEF will continue providing support to the government to achieve this, as we see quality, inclusive education to be one of the top priorities for Montenegro.

Juan Santander, UNICEF Montenegro Representative

British Ambassador to Montenegro Karen Maddocks said that Montenegro, like many countries around the world, closed schools during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We know now that school closures will have an impact on this generation of children for years to come, as well as on the longer-term future of the country. Montenegro has ambitions to promote innovation and to build a stronger economy post-Covid. The key to long-term sustainable economic growth is its human capital and, in order to nurture this country’s talent, its young people need to be able to return to their classrooms, from primary schools to universities, as soon as possible.

Karen Maddocks, British Ambassador to Montenegro

The NGO “Montenegro Teachers’ Association” wants the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports to be fully dedicated at this moment to one of the key segments of the society, above all to preparation of the next school year and the building of a non-partocratic education system which will be able to design and implement quality changes.

“I want open schools, but also open minds for a healthy individual and a healthy society.

Danijela Delibašić, MA, member of the Management board of the Montenegro Teachers’ Association

The Montenegro Teachers’ Association is appealing for the education budget to be distributed transparently, for the basic conditions for work in schools in the digital age to be created for children and teachers and for special attention to be paid to addressing the needs of children living in poverty, marginalized children and students and teachers from high-risk groups during the pandemic. They aspire to creating a decentralized education system where the Ministry would be open to cooperation with teachers, students, parents, local communities and preschools and schools; where autonomy of schools and preschools would be allowed; where teachers would be taken into account as collaborators, because they are direct participants in the educational process and implementors with experience and a sincere wish for success. The Montenegro Teachers’ Association pointed out that they would not give up on their efforts to build a knowledge society.

The Parents’ Association thinks that many opportunities have already been missed to get things ready on time and that lessons from the last school year have not been learned, because preparations for the new school year should have started much earlier. Less than a month remains until the beginning of the school year and a lot of things remain unknown for the teachers, children and parents. They hope that the coming days will be used to the maximum to make everything ready for the beginning of the school year and that, this time, the authorities will really put children in first place.

“We must not allow a repeat of the situation we had last year. Children have lost a lot in terms of studying, development and mental health. It is a question as to whether all of that can be recovered. The epidemiological situation is unpredictable, but the decision-makers should have scenarios based on the experience so far. They should be guided by the fact that children are a priority above all other priorities.

Kristina Mihailović from the Parents’ Association

She also said that parents are asking if children will be the ones bearing the consequences of the decisions regarding the epidemiological situation in the last few months, as when the time comes for them to go to school, a lock-down may happen and educational institutions will be the first to be closed. This is the greatest fear of parents, together with the fear that their children are not safe at school.

According to recent World Bank estimates, school closures and the disruptions to learning during the pandemic are projected to amount to losses valued at $10 trillion in terms of affected children’s future earnings. For this reason, UNICEF, UNESCO and the World Bank have launched Mission Recovery Education 2021 focusing on three priorities: bringing all children back to school, recovering learning losses, and supporting teachers.