Six year-old Fetije who has just started school
Six year-old Fetije has just started school. It's been a big month for her, as for many children across the world, embarking on new stages of education. But Fetije is a real rarity in her community - 96% of Kosovo's Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians have not completed compulsory education, so she is setting out to do something truly extraordinary. She says she's determined to see her schooling through to the end - because she wants to be a teacher when she grows up.
Her father, Haki, agrees. 'Without education you're nothing,' he says. His wife only managed four years of school but they are both determined that their girls will have more.
'The problem,' says Haki, 'is money.' He is unemployed and dependent on casual labour - his last job was unloading lorries, which usually earns 10 euro for a day's work; precious little to keep a family of six. 'You can have good dreams but... there's a problem without money.'
Luckily, his two daughters old enough for school have been able to benefit from the support of The Ideas Partnership. Both of them attended the free kindergarten we set up last year, and Haki says with pride that they knew all their letters before they started at primary school this month. Being at our kindergarten also meant that our mediator was able to ensure they registered on time for primary school. They also attend our Saturday academic support activities to ensure they succeed at school. The girls' confidence is unmistakeable. 'What do you get from coming to our centre?' I ask them, and Fetije is quite clear about the benefits.
'Friends,' she grins. 'And knowing my letters.'
'And boots' adds her father, referring to the footwear we distibute to children in need.
Fetije says she's happy at her new school and talks proudly about her teacher and her new classmates, including friends who are both Albanian and from her own Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian community; her presence in the schoolroom is a step forward not only for her but for a more integrated future for all Kosovo's citizens.
Fetije and her sister Elmedina are two of the 45 first graders we registered at school this year. Thanks to your support it's a higher number than we've ever before registered, in the five years we've been battling to get the members of the girls' community into education. It's the beginning of something huge - for the two of them, and for all those around them. Thank you for launching these young learners on their adventure - with friends, the letters of the alphabet, and with boots.
Fetije and her sister Elmedina, both now at school