It all starts with knowledge, and knowledge starts with education. That’s why school is important. “Božidar Vuković-Podgoričanin”, a school on the outskirts of Podgorica, was the first source of knowledge for many. It is a school attended by a large number of Roma and Egyptian children. Unfortunately, many do not finish elementary school. But there are also many who know what power lies in knowledge. Jasmina Beriša is finishing the school “Božidar Vuković-Podgoričanin” with straight As and a diploma “Luča”. It is clear that she is happy and proud of herself.
“To some extent, I am an example to other Roma children, and especially Roma girls, to continue their education, which is the most important thing in today’s world. You can achieve everything through education because it is the key that opens many doors,” Jasmina is well aware.
Jasmina is preparing for high school, and is already thinking about faculty. She spends her days studying, while many of her peers work hard to help their families.
“I had the opportunity to meet children who drop out of school to help their parents. This is not forced labour, but they see for themselves that they have nothing else left to do, but to help their parents. I wish it wasn’t like that,” says Jasmina.
Jasmina sees herself as a successful, independent woman with a college degree, in a world where there will be more justice. She says that today there are many children who cannot go to school, and they ought to be in school. She hopes that in the years to come the situation will be much better and that there will be many more Roma children in schools, rather than on the streets. Jasmina looks to the future with a smile.
Šejla Pepić also finished elementary school “Božidar Vuković-Podgoričanin”. Today, she is about to graduate from the Faculty of Political Sciences and just a few more exams separate her from a social worker’s degree. She loves her elementary school because she accepts diversity and she accepts all children no matter where they come from. “That is not the case with other schools,” says Šejla. There is discrimination, at least the covert kind.
Šejla accepts diversity as a difference in human characters and in her opinion other differences should not exist. Progress can be seen when it comes to respecting the human rights of Roma, Šejla says, but it is still far from what is needed. Now more attention should be paid to Roma women and especially Roma girls.
“I would connect girls with primary education, because it is compulsory for everyone. But there are also many girls who do not complete their primary education, because it is being interrupted with early marriage. It is considered a part of Roma’s tradition and customs, and it is the institutions that must work on raising awareness of the community and on its integration,” claims Šejla.
Šejla spent two years at the school as a mediator for the Roma and Egyptian communities. She connected children with school, school with parents and community. All with the desire that as many children from vulnerable groups as possible follow Jasmina’s and her lead. The two of them promise that throughout their lives they will fight to make as many children as possible realise that everything starts with knowledge and knowledge starts with education. And with a school, such as “Bozidar Vukovic-Podgoričanin.”