Every school to identify the best ways to organize education during the COVID-19 pandemic

UNICEF organized a meeting regarding the right to education with relevant local organizations representatives.

UNICEF Montenegro
A boy studying home
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2020
16 September 2020

PODGORICA, 15 SEPTEMBER 2020 – UNICEF, the Parents’ Association, the Teachers’ Association, the Pedagogical Centre, the Union of School Principals and the Trade Union of Education of Montenegro are calling for every school to be allowed to make its own decision on the best ways to organize quality and inclusive education during the COVID-19 pandemic based on a comprehensive assessment of the school’s risks and capabilities to be conducted in cooperation with health experts, teachers, parents, students and the local community.

This appeal came at the first meeting regarding the right to education during the COVID-19 pandemic that UNICEF organized with relevant local organizations last week.

Having an inclusive public debate is the aim of a series of meetings with relevant organizations that UNICEF is hosting in order to promote the inclusion of the voices of various groups, primarily students, parents and teachers, in the public debate on education during the COVID-19 pandemic. They all have the right to be heard so that their views are taken into account when decisions are made. We are confident that the best decisions will be found through continuous dialogue with all stakeholders and health experts.

Juan Santander, the UNICEF Montenegro Representative

The Teachers’ Association highlighted that the decision on school reopening should be based on a thorough analysis of each school’s situation, to be conducted in close cooperation with health experts, teachers, parents and students.

We are appealing to all schools to engage with the teachers’, parents’ and students’ councils in dialogue with health experts and the school management in order to effectively identify all the problems and their best solutions at the school level. One of them is certainly to equip all schools, teachers and pupils with new technologies and the skills to use them.

Olivera Lekovic, the Teachers’ Association
A girl studying home
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2020
A girl studying at home during COVID-19 pandemic, in Podgorica, 2020

The Pedagogical Centre pointed to the need to listen to the voices of children with disabilities and Roma and Egyptian families in particular.

One solution for all schools and for all children ignores the differences in the needs of students that a quality education system should respond to. We are calling upon the Ministry of Education to ensure that we have a flexible system so that it can meet the different needs of various students. This is the key principle of quality, inclusive education and it should be followed during the COVID-19 pandemic as well.

Prof. Biljana Maslovaric, the Pedagogical Centre

The challenges with overcrowded schools were highlighted in particular by the Union of School Principals.

The challenges are not the same for all schools. Some schools are capable of organizing education in the school building safely, in line with the health-related instructions. However, this is a significant challenge for overcrowded schools. Short-term solutions to this problem need to be identified together with health experts and local communities, while in the long run, we are calling upon the local and national authorities to build new schools.

Dragutin Šćekić, the Union of School Principals

A significant increase in teachers’ workloads, inadequate digital support and the need to improve teachers’ socio-economic status in society were underlined by the Trade Union of Education of Montenegro.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not just a health crisis, but also an educational one. Our society’s future depends on the good work not only of doctors, but also of teachers. We are calling for the urgent improvement of teachers’ socio-economic status.

Nikolaj Knežević, the Trade Union of Education of Montenegro

The Parents’ Association explained that the socio-economic situation of parents must also be taken into account, as the authorities have not yet adopted adequate measures regarding paid parental leave.

We're still waiting for a decision on the right to paid leave, and 1 September [the start of the school year] passed a long time ago. This situation is quite stressful for many families across Montenegro and we are urging the authorities to resolve it as soon as possible, and not to allow it to happen again.

Kristina Mihailovic, the Parents’ Association

The UNICEF Montenegro Representative, Juan Santander, will meet with other civil-sector organizations and relevant institutions in the coming weeks to learn about their perspectives on children’s rights during the COVID-19 pandemic and to promote their voices in an inclusive public debate on this issue.