Classrooms open to children from foreign countries
A 13-year-old Ukrainian girl is one of 157 foreign pupils receiving support for continuing their education at Anto Djedovic Elementary School in Bar.
PODGORICA, 15 June 2023 - Oleksandra (13) came to Bar last year from war-torn Odessa in Ukraine. Although she immediately took a liking to coastal life and the school she enrolled in, she was concerned about continuing her education in a new environment with classmates whose language she does not speak.
Nevertheless, Oleksandra is not the only pupil with a foreign language background. This school year, 157 foreign pupils have enrolled at Anto Djedovic Elementary School in Bar. The majority of them are from Russia and Ukraine, followed by Belarus and Germany.
With the support of the Ministry of Education and UNICEF, the school has helped these students integrate into the education system and learn Montenegrin intensively in order to keep up with the curriculum.
“I attend classes regularly, practise, do homework, attend remedial classes, and participate in additional classes organized by a Ukrainian educator,” explains Oleksandra shyly, trying to pronounce each word correctly.
Oleksandra’s friend Sofia, who relocated to Montenegro from Russia before her, helps her to deal with the extensive curriculum.
When asked whether she prefers the school in Odessa or the one in Bar, Oleksandra said, “The classes here are interesting, the teachers teach more engagingly, we all participate, and the children treat each other better.”
“On the day of her birthday, everyone greeted her with applause,” adds Ljiljana Milovic, her teacher.
There are 12 other students in Oleksandra’s class for whom Montenegrin is not their mother tongue. The biggest challenge the teachers working with them face is that they all have different levels of language proficiency.
The most important thing for them is to feel accepted, to see the school as a safe environment, and only then do we think about the curriculum.
In addition to language classes, children participate in extracurricular activities and socialize with their peers from Bar, which helps them learn the language and enhance their social skills.
Since the seventh-grade programme for Montenegrin-Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian Language and Literature is not easy, the teacher says she tries to tailor the lessons to the abilities of each pupil.
“For example, if we are studying ‘Tom Sawyer’, foreign students can watch the film, express themselves through drawings or comic strips, or express themselves through written assignments in their native tongue,” explains Milovic.
The school principal, Stanka Vukcevic, says that the school has had foreign children who helped other pupils with translation and communication – serving as peer educators.
The school has a themed classroom where classes take place using digital equipment, literature and materials necessary for the implementation of lessons following the recommendations and guidelines of the Ministry of Education and the Bureau of Education Services.
Currently, Montenegro is hosting the highest number of refugees from Ukraine per capita in Europe, so educational institutions and the Association of Psychologists, with the support of UNICEF, have prepared learning materials for children whose native tongue is not Montenegrin.
In addition, teams have been formed to support learning, and workshops have been organized to support mental health.
Additionally, a web service has been developed to determine the number of children who came from Ukraine and enrolled in the education system after March 2022 to monitor their education. Furthermore, six elementary schools and four kindergartens have been equipped with additional furniture and equipment to overcome infrastructure capacity limitations.
In the future, it is necessary to continue providing academic support, as well as activities related to psychological support and socio-emotional needs.
Education is of great importance for children who come from different language backgrounds. In addition to providing academic knowledge, kindergartens and schools contribute to social inclusion and improving wellbeing and mental health.
UNICEF will therefore continue supporting institutions in Montenegro to ensure that all children can exercise their right to quality and inclusive education.