The fight against poverty starts with quality education for every child
UNICEF’s young reporters are asking: How to reduce child poverty in Montenegro?
PODGORICA, 20 DECEMBER 2020 – How to reduce child poverty in Montenegro? – is the question that was posed by UNICEF’s young reporters last week to representatives of the international community and the civil sector in order to encourage greater support for children affected by poverty.
All of the interlocutors primarily emphasized the importance of quality education in breaking the vicious cycle of poverty that is passed from generation to generation.
When we say education and the improvement of education, we mean, first of all, that all children in Montenegro should have free school snacks, free textbooks and also free additional extracurricular activities.
According to a UNICEF survey from October 2018, most children and young people in Montenegro aged 9–17 have not attended a cultural or sporting event in the past year, which indicates the need to provide free extracurricular activities for all children throughout the country.
I think we have to have children get to school so that when they are older they will be able to have more opportunities to work for themselves. And perhaps when they have their own families they will be able to support their own children. So, we need to make sure we remove the obstacles to children going school.
Šejla Pepić, National Coordinator of the Centre for Roma Initiatives, referred in particular to the problem of child marriages in the Roma community as a key obstacle to the education of girls, their employment and recovery from poverty.
We need to change the mindset of the community itself, that children's arranged marriages do not constitute customs and tradition, and that girls should be educated and should be included in society. The Centre for Roma Initiatives has been reporting every suspected arranged marriage to the state authorities since 2011 in order to prevent them, but we, as a non-governmental organization, cannot do everything on our own, we need the help of state institutions.
The coronavirus crisis has highlighted some other obstacles to quality education that need to be overcome in order to reduce poverty in Montenegro. Namely, according to a recent UN study conducted in Montenegro, 16 percent of families with children under the age of 18 do not have access to a computer or laptop connected to the internet. This digital divide refers not only to unequal access to new technologies, but also to differences in the possession of skills that enable their adequate use. UNICEF research on this topic with children, parents and teachers undertaken during the last few years shows that teachers are more media-literate than parents and children. However, in all of them – children, parents and teachers – it is noticed that their creative skills are the least developed, i.e. that the creation of new media content is the least practiced, and it is exactly that which requires a higher level of knowledge and skills. Teachers at school most often use the internet to check information. This data points to the need for teacher training so that they can use the media more effectively in teaching and thus develop digital and media literacy among students who will need them in the labour market of the 21st century.