Most students spend their long warm summer days enjoying their break from school. However, to refugee and migrant children residing in the Una-Sana Canton, this summer brought an experience to remember for many days to come.
They go to summer school every day, which helps them acquire knowledge and develop skills they were not able to acquire on the long journey from their homelands. The activities are organised at the premises of elementary schools Harmani 1 and Prekounje in Bihać, as well as Ostrožac near Cazin.
“We have classes for three days, then we have a field trip for two days. We went to Cazin and Bihać”, a girl named Sadaish explains, adding that she really liked summer school.
So far, about 140 children have been included in these activities, and apart from classes, transport and snacks are organized for them.
“We are so grateful the schools that welcomed the children in these summer months so they could have a continuous feeling of safety and normality. We sincerely hope that in September, these children will join their peers and start school. They are already so excited about it”, says Amila Madžak, UNICEF education officer. She points out that in May 2018, UNICEF, together with its partners Save the Children, World Vision and SOS Children’s Villages, developed a study of the needs of refugee and migrant children when it was established that the priorities were to provide education, health and psychosocial protection.
The inclusion of refugee and migrant children in regular education in the Una-Sana Canton began last winter, and the formation of the summer school is a logical progression. Teachers working with the children have undergone a training in the HEART method that uses art to help the children recover, learn, and integrate.
Hajrudin Okanović, principal of the Elementary School Ostrožac, has supported the inclusion of children of migrants and refugees in teaching activities from the very beginning.
“We convened meetings of the School Board, the Teachers’ Council and the Parents’ Council and received positive responses. Everyone was one hundred percent “for” these children to attend our school. With the help of Save the Children and UNICEF, as well as our teaching staff, we quickly organized ourselves and made it possible for the children of refugees and migrants to be included in classes with our children”, Okanović explained. Given the interest of children in the teaching process, this school opened its doors during the summer months.
Besides teachers, cultural mediators also work with the children helping them adapt to the new environment. One of them, Emna Omerčević, stresses that communication with parents is also important in the process of education of children:
“Cultural mediators are in constant communication with the parents and children, and we motivate the parents to send their children to school. School helps them overcome the situation they are in, which is very important for their mental health. We see the children are very interested in going to school since they often approach us seeking assistance in doing their homework, and we help them. On one occasion, a girl said she will take her homework with her as a memory, so she wouldn’t forget us and the time she spent here. It was a clear message how happy the children are here; happy that they are part of this story and of the education system in BiH.”
Maja Andrić from Save the Children, says:
“A 212 children have been included in different curricular activities, so far. In addition to curricular activities, the children have participated in different activities in the community, in excursions, field trips, visits to BiH cities such as Mostar, Sarajevo and Travnik.”
The partnership of UNICEF and Save the Children is an example of how in an emergency situation of refugees and migrants inflow in the Una-Sana Canton, successful practices for children welfare can be implemented.
(Photo by Amir Selimovic)