Insufficient investment in geographically remote schools

Twenty years ago seven hundred and fifty pupils attended the Saint Sava Primary School. Today, there are barely eighty pupils.

UNICEF Serbia
Pupils from Saint Sava Primary School, a geographically isolated school in southwestern Serbia.
UNICEF Serbia/2015

26 February 2015

It is 19 degrees below zero.

The climate is so severe that even dogs barely leave their warm shelters.

On the Giljeva Mountain, which is 1300 meters above sea level, a primary school is located in the village of Bare. The road was covered in snow for days and the first group of pupils have just made their way to school.

Many of them walk many kilometres so they could attend classes.

Although the state donated a minivan last summer, it has not been used, as the school administration has not been able to register it.

The parents are dissatisfied and they feel that children who attend schools in isolated towns are being neglected.      

Michel Saint-Lot, UNICEF Representative in Serbia, stresses that there should be no difference in terms of access to quality education, whether children live in urban centres or in rural areas.

All children have the same right to education. 

And in this very school in Bare, the number of pupils is declining rapidly.

Twenty years ago seven hundred and fifty pupils attended the Saint Sava Primary School. Today, there are barely eighty pupils.

The closest town is that of Sjenica and many families have moved there for work, but also so that their children can obtain a better education. The principal is concerned that soon there will be no more pupils left in the school.    

Veroslav Radovic, Principal of the Saint Sava Primary School, says that the school needs everything. He says that they lack central heating and that there are no restrooms and toilets in the school. 

UNICEF is aware that the state has limited resources to invest in education, but it should focus on the effective allocation of existing funds. 

Michel Saint-Lot says that the children in Bare have been deprived. The last time furniture was procured was in 2001 by UNICEF.  

He says that it is sad that 14 years later, this is the only equipment that the school has received.

It is equally worrying that children have no access to organised school transport and have to walk four or five kilometres to school and back. 

Still, the teachers are doing their best to convey knowledge to their pupils. They say that the existing conditions are preventing the children from reaching their full potential.

The educational tools and equipment are old; there is no gym in the school. Very little money is invested in schools located in isolated areas.

During the winter months, instead of central heating, furnaces from the last century are being used to keep the pupils and teachers warm.

Some classrooms are in detached, satellite, buildings and do not even have proper toilets. 

Aleksandar Sasa Djordjevic, UNICEF Serbia National Ambassador, says that it is the duty of adults, who have spent the best time of their lives growing up in schools and learning from wonderful teachers, to get involved and provide the best possible conditions for learning for each child in Serbia. 

''We can achieve this with support from organisations like UNICEF, but also through support provided by each individual citizen,'' Djordjevic says.  

Children are the most precious human resource of Serbia.

The educational system created in the 1960s is outdated. Schools in remote areas have been overlooked and the education system does not sufficiently invest in them.

UNICEF believes that no child should be forgotten and that special attention should be paid to schools located in remote areas, like this one in the village of Bare.  

All children, no matter where they live, should benefit from quality education.